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Top eight factors predicting depression in college students

Recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, a study sought to determine the factors to predict depression in college students.

Depressive symptoms are a widespread issue among college students. College students are particularly vulnerable to depression due to various stressors unique to their campus and curriculum. Many psychological, genetic, environmental, and interpersonal factors can interact in a very complicated pathway leading to depression. It is important to find the right means to predict possible depression in college students to provide early intervention.

A recent study examined current electronic medical and psychological databases to find relevant prognostic factors connected to depressive symptoms. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. They considered randomized controlled trials and case studies ineligible, along with studies that were conducted on non-college students.  After reviewing many studies, they selected 24 studies covering data from 24,154 college students for systematic review and 15 studies for a meta-analysis.

Predictors of depressive symptoms

According to their analysis, the predictors of depressive symptoms in college students are:

  1. Gender
  2. Depression (at the start of the study)
  3. Neuroticism or psychoticism
  4. Negative automatic thoughts or negative rumination
  5. Dysfunctional attitude
  6. Childhood abuse
  7. Sex abuse
  8. Stressful life events

Female students are more likely to have depressive symptoms

Future predictors of depression in college students varied, however, the factor that had the greatest weight for predicting future depression was depressive states at the start of the studies.

The second important factor for prediction of depression in college students was personality traits, then came stressful life events, gender, and childhood abuse (including sexual abuse) and negative ruminations. These were factors which independently also turn out to predict depression in college students. Sexual abuse is also a factor which is an independent predictor of depression in college students.

Protective factors of depression such as family function and social support did not seem to particularly help against depressive symptoms. Their analysis revealed that female students are more likely to have depressive symptoms.

It is important to identify and have proper, prompt treatment for depressive symptoms and other mental health issues, allowing for verification of causal relationships between depressive symptoms and factors among college students. It is important to also focus future research on whether these depressive symptoms carry over into their period of transition to the workplace.

Written by Sonia Leslie Fernandez, Medical News Writer

Reference: Liu, Y., Zhang, N., Bao, G., Huang, Y., Ji, B., Wu, Y., … & Li, G. (2018). Predictors of depressive symptoms in college students: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Journal of Affective Disorders.



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