Depression and anxiety are increasingly prevalent among college students, and recent research from the University of Georgia indicates that this issue may be more pronounced for students who belong to a racial minority compared to their white peers.
The study revealed that non-white students at a predominantly white college reported significantly higher rates of depression compared to their white counterparts. At this institution, over half of non-white students reported experiencing mild depression, and an additional 17% reported experiencing moderate to severe depression.
In terms of anxiety levels, students at the predominantly white university, regardless of race, reported similar levels. More than three in five students reported experiencing mild to severe levels of anxiety.
At a historically Black college, non-Black students also experienced higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Janani Rajbhandari-Thapa, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Public Health, emphasized the importance of inclusivity and mental health efforts on college campuses, emphasizing that not all students come from the same background and thus require tailored support.
The study, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic with over 3,100 participants, assessed various aspects including feelings of hopelessness, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. The findings highlighted that first-generation students were significantly more likely to experience depression compared to their peers who were not first-generation college attendees.
All first-generation students expressed some level of depression, regardless of the institution. The majority reported mild symptoms, but over half at the predominantly white university reported experiencing moderate to severe levels of depression.
Rajbhandari-Thapa, who herself was an international student, stressed the unique challenges faced by first-generation students and the need for universities to provide additional support.
The pandemic brought about disruptions in daily life, particularly affecting college students who were deprived of their usual social interactions and group activities. This, in turn, likely contributed to heightened stress and anxiety levels. The study revealed that female students experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to their male peers, aligning with broader societal trends in mental health.
The researchers advocate for investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion resources to help all students, regardless of their racial background or first-generation status, feel more comfortable and supported on campus.
Published in the Journal of American College Health, the study was co-authored by Kathryn Chiang, Mitchell Chen Lee, Arial Treankler, and Heather Padilla from the University of Georgia, along with Drs. Emily Anne Vall at Resilient Georgia and Marion Ross Fedrick at Albany State University.
Remember, if you need further guidance or support, don’t hesitate to reach out to your mental health professional or contact us for assistance.