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7 Depression Research Paper Topic Ideas

Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

research paper questions on depression

In psychology classes, it's common for students to write a depression research paper. Researching depression may be beneficial if you have a personal interest in this topic and want to learn more, or if you're simply passionate about this mental health issue. However, since depression is a very complex subject, it offers many possible topics to focus on, which may leave you wondering where to begin.

If this is how you feel, here are a few research titles about depression to help inspire your topic choice. You can use these suggestions as actual research titles about depression, or you can use them to lead you to other more in-depth topics that you can look into further for your depression research paper.

What Is Depression?

Everyone experiences times when they feel a little bit blue or sad. This is a normal part of being human. Depression, however, is a medical condition that is quite different from everyday moodiness.

Your depression research paper may explore the basics, or it might delve deeper into the  definition of clinical depression  or the  difference between clinical depression and sadness .

What Research Says About the Psychology of Depression

Studies suggest that there are biological, psychological, and social aspects to depression, giving you many different areas to consider for your research title about depression.

Types of Depression

There are several different types of depression  that are dependent on how an individual's depression symptoms manifest themselves. Depression symptoms may vary in severity or in what is causing them. For instance, major depressive disorder (MDD) may have no identifiable cause, while postpartum depression is typically linked to pregnancy and childbirth.

Depressive symptoms may also be part of an illness called bipolar disorder. This includes fluctuations between depressive episodes and a state of extreme elation called mania. Bipolar disorder is a topic that offers many research opportunities, from its definition and its causes to associated risks, symptoms, and treatment.

Causes of Depression

The possible causes of depression are many and not yet well understood. However, it most likely results from an interplay of genetic vulnerability  and environmental factors. Your depression research paper could explore one or more of these causes and reference the latest research on the topic.

For instance, how does an imbalance in brain chemistry or poor nutrition relate to depression? Is there a relationship between the stressful, busier lives of today's society and the rise of depression? How can grief or a major medical condition lead to overwhelming sadness and depression?

Who Is at Risk for Depression?

This is a good research question about depression as certain risk factors may make a person more prone to developing this mental health condition, such as a family history of depression, adverse childhood experiences, stress , illness, and gender . This is not a complete list of all risk factors, however, it's a good place to start.

The growing rate of depression in children, teenagers, and young adults is an interesting subtopic you can focus on as well. Whether you dive into the reasons behind the increase in rates of depression or discuss the treatment options that are safe for young people, there is a lot of research available in this area and many unanswered questions to consider.

Depression Signs and Symptoms

The signs of depression are those outward manifestations of the illness that a doctor can observe when they examine a patient. For example, a lack of emotional responsiveness is a visible sign. On the other hand, symptoms are subjective things about the illness that only the patient can observe, such as feelings of guilt or sadness.

An illness such as depression is often invisible to the outside observer. That is why it is very important for patients to make an accurate accounting of all of their symptoms so their doctor can diagnose them properly. In your depression research paper, you may explore these "invisible" symptoms of depression in adults or explore how depression symptoms can be different in children .

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

This is another good depression research topic because, in some ways, the diagnosis of depression is more of an art than a science. Doctors must generally rely upon the patient's set of symptoms and what they can observe about them during their examination to make a diagnosis. 

While there are certain  laboratory tests that can be performed to rule out other medical illnesses as a cause of depression, there is not yet a definitive test for depression itself.

If you'd like to pursue this topic, you may want to start with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The fifth edition, known as DSM-5, offers a very detailed explanation that guides doctors to a diagnosis. You can also compare the current model of diagnosing depression to historical methods of diagnosis—how have these updates improved the way depression is treated?

Treatment Options for Depression

The first choice for depression treatment is generally an antidepressant medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most popular choice because they can be quite effective and tend to have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is another effective and common choice. It is especially efficacious when combined with antidepressant therapy. Certain other treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), are most commonly used for patients who do not respond to more common forms of treatment.

Focusing on one of these treatments is an option for your depression research paper. Comparing and contrasting several different types of treatment can also make a good research title about depression.

A Word From Verywell

The topic of depression really can take you down many different roads. When making your final decision on which to pursue in your depression research paper, it's often helpful to start by listing a few areas that pique your interest.

From there, consider doing a little preliminary research. You may come across something that grabs your attention like a new study, a controversial topic you didn't know about, or something that hits a personal note. This will help you narrow your focus, giving you your final research title about depression.

Remes O, Mendes JF, Templeton P. Biological, psychological, and social determinants of depression: A review of recent literature . Brain Sci . 2021;11(12):1633. doi:10.3390/brainsci11121633

National Institute of Mental Health. Depression .

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition . American Psychiatric Association.

National Institute of Mental Health. Mental health medications .

Ferri, F. F. (2019). Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2020 E-Book: 5 Books in 1 . Netherlands: Elsevier Health Sciences.

By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.  

Depression Detectives

Depression Detectives

A blog for the radical citizen science project Depression Detectives

Top 10 research questions

research paper questions on depression

Our Depression Detectives have come up with 59 possible research questions and voted on their top ten.  We are now discussing, narrowing and finetuning them, and finding ways how they could be researched. Every day, we are looking at one of the top ten questions. Then we will then have another vote to decide on the final favourite question, which will be the basis of our study.

THE TOP TEN

  • Do people with depression feel that they predominantly receive help to treat their “symptoms“ vs “origins”? How could this be changed?
  • What is the effectiveness of treatments on offer from GPs on the NHS (mainly anti-depressants and short-term counselling) and what proportion of patients recover with just this, what proportion go on to have a major crisis which enables them to access more in-depth treatment, and what proportion end up self-funding something which actually works in the long-term?
  • How do people who say that they have recovered from depression describe their recovery: Do they think they are “cured” or just “coping better”, “able to spot triggers better”, etc.?
  • How does ‌chronic‌ depression/dysphoria‌ differ ‌from,‌ ‌say‌ ‌a‌ ‌single‌ ‌episode,‌ or‌ ‌discrete‌ ‌episodes‌ ‌of‌ ‌reactive‌ ‌depression? Are there markers (biological, psychological, behavioural, and current or in a person’s history e.g. trauma) that distinguish them?
  • What would need to happen to make a wider range of support available, including more time-intensive interventions? How could access to psychological therapies be improved?
  • What is the‌ ‌link‌ ‌between‌ ‌autism‌ ‌and‌ ‌depression? Misdiagnosis‌ ‌–‌ are ‘symptoms’‌ ‌of‌ ‌depression‌ ‌are‌ ‌actually‌ ‌’traits’‌ ‌of‌ ‌autism‌ ‌(being‌ ‌quiet,‌ withdrawn‌ ‌and‌ ‌needing‌ ‌to‌ ‌shut‌ ‌yourself‌ ‌away‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌stimulus‌ ‌of‌ ‌ people‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌outside‌ ‌world)‌ ‌which‌ ‌would‌ ‌explain‌ ‌why‌ ‌trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌someone‌ ‌out‌ ‌and‌ ‌mixing‌ ‌with‌ ‌people‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌way‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌depression‌ ‌would‌ ‌not‌ ‌work‌ ‌and‌ ‌in‌ ‌fact‌ ‌make‌ ‌things‌ ‌100x‌ ‌worse‌?
  • How can others best support family members or friends with depression? What do people with depression find most helpful?
  • What‌ ‌are‌ ‌the‌ ‌specific‌ ‌problems‌ ‌that‌ emerge‌ ‌from‌ ‌having‌ ‌a‌ ‌parent‌ ‌with‌ ‌depression,‌ ‌and‌ ‌what‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌done‌ ‌to‌ help‌ ‌counter‌ ‌these‌ ‌effects?‌ ‌
  • Can‌ ‌parents‌ ‌learn‌ ‌and‌ ‌teach‌ ‌healthy‌ ‌emotional‌ ‌behaviours‌ ‌and‌ ‌positive‌ ‌strategies‌ ‌(e.g.‌ ‌through‌ ‌therapy),‌ ‌even‌ ‌if‌ ‌they‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌always‌ ‌do‌ them‌ ‌themselves?‌ ‌
  • Can we ask GPs what training they received in mental health, whether they think it was adequate to prepare them for GP consultations, what more they would like to learn and what services do they wish they could refer patients to? Doing 6 months in inpatient psychiatry as an optional part of a rotation doesn’t really prepare you for dealing with the majority of mental health issues in the community.

research paper questions on depression

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Depression articles from across Nature Portfolio

Depression refers to a state of low mood that can be accompanied with loss of interest in activities that the individual normally perceived as pleasurable, altered appetite and sleep/wake balance. Its severe form, major depression is classified as a mood disorder.

Latest Research and Reviews

research paper questions on depression

Psychological flexibility as a mechanism of change in psilocybin-assisted therapy for major depression: results from an exploratory placebo-controlled trial

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  • Richard J. Zeifman
  • Deepak Cyril D’Souza

research paper questions on depression

Brain mechanisms underlying the emotion processing bias in treatment-resistant depression

Using stereotactic electroencephalography, the authors identified differential amygdala activation in response to emotional faces in participants with treatment-resistant depression compared with non-depressed participants with epilepsy, suggesting possible deep brain stimulation targets.

  • Madaline Mocchi
  • Kelly R. Bijanki

research paper questions on depression

Individuals vary in their overt attention preference for positive images consistently across time and stimulus types

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research paper questions on depression

Mood variability during adolescent development and its relation to sleep and brain development

  • Yara J. Toenders
  • Renske van der Cruijsen
  • Eveline A. Crone

research paper questions on depression

Exploring the genetic etiology across the continuum of the general psychopathology factor: a Swedish population-based family and twin study

  • Yangjun Liu
  • Paul Lichtenstein
  • Erik Pettersson

research paper questions on depression

Olfactory genes affect major depression in highly educated, emotionally stable, lean women: a bridge between animal models and precision medicine

  • Nora Eszlari
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Use fines from eu social-media act to fund research on adolescent mental health.

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research paper questions on depression

Enhanced estimation of the prevalence of treated mental health disorders by wastewater-based epidemiology

Wastewater analysis can quantify the pharmaceuticals used to treat mental health disorders, providing data for policy development. This Comment highlights the potential of such wastewater-based epidemiology to enhance the estimation of treated mental health disorders at the community level.

  • Fahad Ahmed
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Reply to Bisol: Critical review and recommendations for enhancement of the article on novel neurosteroid therapeutics for postpartum depression

  • Riah Patterson
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MMP8 and stress susceptibility

Increased levels of matrix metalloproteinase 8, expressed by circulating myeloid cells, may have a role in stress-induced changes in social behaviour in mice.

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Methodological concerns in umbrella review of serotonin and depression

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research paper questions on depression

Physical activity compensates affective downsides of daily life aloneness

Combining accelerometry, electronic diaries and neuroimaging, we found that physical activity is reproducibly linked to better wellbeing in people lacking social contact in everyday life, especially in people at neural and psychological risk of affective disorders.

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research paper questions on depression

Frequently Asked Questions What is Depression?

Major Depression, also known as clinical or unipolar depression, is one of the most common mental illnesses. Over 9 million American adults suffer from clinical depression each year. This estimate is likely to be higher since depression commonly remains undiagnosed and untreated in a large percentage of the U.S. population. Major Depression is more than a temporary state of feeling sad; rather, it is a persistent state that can significantly impair an individual's thoughts, behavior, daily activities, and physical health.

Major Depressive Disorder impacts all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and can occur at any age. The average lifetime prevalence of depression is 17%: 26% for women and 12% for men. The mean age for a first episode is in the thirties. Demographic differences show that rates are higher in urban rather than in rural areas. No racial significance has been noted. Along gender lines, women suffer from depression at twice the rate of men. Statistics have shown that one out of every seven women will experience at least one depressive episode in their lifetime. This gender difference is best explained by looking at the interplay between biological, genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors.

Classified as mood disorders, major depression, along with other depressive disorders such as dysthymia (a chronic less severe form of depression), and bipolar disorder (manic depression) fall along a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is unipolar or major depression and on the opposite is bipolar disorder or manic depression, both with varying degrees of severity and duration. Along this spectrum, there are several categories of mood disorders, such as postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and psychotic depression, as well as variants of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by severe and disabling cycles of depression and mania.

Mood disorders are highly treatable conditions, with each type requiring different treatment approaches and modalities. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapies offer useful treatment approaches and are commonly employed in treating the debilitating effects of depression. However, if mood disorders are left untreated for long periods of time, the debilitating effects of depression can lead to suicide.

SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER

Symptoms of Major Depression represent a significant change from the individual's normal level of functioning. Together the symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in the individual's life and his/her ability to function. Depression symptoms can occur with either a sudden onset or in a more gradual fashion, with the severity of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

A Major Depressive Episode is defined as having five or more of the following symptoms present for the same two-week period, and represents a change from the individual's normal level of functioning when well. At least one of the five required symptoms must be (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest.

1.              depressed mood experienced most of the day, nearly every day;

2.              diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day;

3.              significant change in appetite (increase or decrease) or weight (loss or gain);

4.              insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day;

5.              observable psychomotor agitation (feeling restless or fidgety) or retardation (feeling slowed down) nearly every day;

6.              loss of energy or fatigue nearly every day;

7.              feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt, nearly every day (not merely self reproach about being sick);

8.              diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either subjective account or observed by others);

9.              recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

What are the Symptoms of Major Depression with Psychotic Features (PMD)?

Symptoms of major depression with psychotic features include all of the symptoms of major depressive disorder listed above. In addition, patients experience delusions and/or hallucinations. Examples of these latter symptoms include feelings as though other people are out to harm them, feeling as though one has special powers to do things that other people cannot do, feeling overwhelmed with guilt, or hearing voices that put one down.

In psychotic major depression, the delusions and/or hallucinations only occur when the person is also experiencing significant depression. These symptoms do not occur when the person is no longer depressed. If one experiences these psychotic symptoms when they are not depressed, there are other diagnoses that would need to be considered.

What are the Symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder?

The differentiation of dysthymic disorder from major depressive disorder can be difficult. Key features of dysthymia are a mild to moderate depressed mood that has a chronic course (greater than 2 years). Dysthymia is characterized by the following:

1.              Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years.

2.              While depressed, there must be present 2 or more of the following: poor appetite or over-eating, insomnia or hypersomnia, low energy/fatigue,

                 low self-esteem, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, feelings of hopelessness.

3.              During the two-year period, the patient has never been without the symptoms in number 1 or 2 for more than 2 months at a time.

4.              No history of a major depressive episode, manic episode, mixed episode, hypomanic episode or cyclothymic disorder.

5.              The symptoms cause significant impairment or distress.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

SYMPTOMS OF BIPOLAR DISORDER

Bipolar Disorder is a spectrum of disorders that are distinguished from Major Depressive Disorder by the presence of manic or hypomanic episodes. During the depressed periods, patients experience symptoms of major depression (see above). Contrasted by the manic periods where patients experience mania episodes. A manic episode is characterized as follows:

Manic Episode

1.              Distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood, lasting for at least one week (or any duration if hospitalization is

                 necessary).

2.              During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms (four if the mood is only irritable) have been present to a significant

                 degree:

          a.              inflated self-esteem or grandiosity

          b.              decreased need for sleep

          c.              more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

          d.              disconnected or racing thoughts

          e.              distractibility

          f.              increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation

          g.              excessive involvement in inappropriate social behavior

3.              The mood symptoms cause significant impairment or distress, or severity of illness requires hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others,

                 or there are psychotic features.

For more information on Bipolar Disorder: http://www.ndmda.org/

What are Causes of Depression?

The exact etiology of depression is yet to be determined; however, multiple factors, including biological, psychological, and environmental factors are involved in the presentation of depression. For example, an individual who has a first-degree relative with depression has a four times higher risk of developing depression than the general population. Twin studies have shown that an individual with a monozygotic twin with depression has as high as a fifty percent chance of developing the disorder.

Major depression is caused by imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Antidepressants work either by changing the sensitivity of the receptors or by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters in the brain.

In addition to genetic components, there are many psychosocial factors that contribute to the development of mood disorders. For example, an individual with little or no social support will have fewer resources to handle stress and thereby will be at a greater risk of developing a mood disorder.

What are Treatments for Depression?

Major depression is a highly treatable illness. Between 80 to 90% of individuals who suffer from severe depression are effectively treated and return to a normal level of functioning. Treatment of depression depends on the individual as well as the severity and duration of the illness. Basic types of treatment for depression include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Often these basic treatment approaches are used in combination. Antidepressants are one of the largest groups of pharmaceuticals produced in the world and the second largest produced in the United States. Currently, over two-dozen antidepressants are on the market.

Antidepressants are successful in 60-80% of patients. No single antidepressant drug has been shown to be more effective than another. Antidepressants work by correcting imbalances in neurotransmitters. Generally, antidepressants take several weeks and up to months to show efficacy and each has their own side effect profile.

Additionally, several methods of short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy have proven successful in the treatment of depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the negative thinking and behavioral patterns associated with depression, and teaches the individual to recognize and target the self-defeating behavioral patterns that contribute to their depression. In contrast, interpersonal therapy has a focus on improving disturbed or unhealthy personal relationships, which may be contributing to the individual's depression.

The final treatment approach, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is employed in cases of severe treatment-resistant depression. An electric current is passed through the brain to produce a seizure, thereby affecting chemical activity in all regions of the brain. It is believed that, with repeated treatments, chemical changes build upon one another to help restore the normal chemical balance in the brain and help to alleviate symptoms of depression.

For more information about ECT and other treatment approaches: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/electroconvulsive-therapy/MY00129

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research paper questions on depression

60 Outstanding Depression Research Paper Topics

depression research paper

Depression has been a subject of interest for quite a while now. Teens have formed the majority of the victims. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, depression has escalated to another level. That is why a research paper on depression is inevitable for you as a college student. First things first,

Depression Research Paper Outline

Whenever you’re confronted with such a paper, the groundbreaking step would be to determine the outline. It will act as a skeleton upon which you will fill with the meet. So, how does a depression research paper look like for you?

  • The topic contributes significantly to the scope of what you intend to write on in your paper. A research topic’s success depends on its originality, currency, and emotional appeal, especially on such a subject.
  • The Introduction – It contains opening remarks which bring to light the background of the topic. You can also include recent developments in depression. The thesis statement should give a clear idea of the arguments in the body paragraphs.
  • The body – You will arrange these in order of seniority – from the most relevant arguments to the least. Include reputable and authoritative statements as evidence for your paper. If you choose to include statistics, ensure that they are accurate.
  • The conclusion – You will summarize your results and findings and recommend them if possible. Since this is a practical topic in everyday life, include a call to action statement here.

Once you get your outline right, here are a few things to consider when writing this kind of paper:

Do not include topics resulting in high emotions Ensure that you have adequate information for the topic you choose Avoid using words that may cause more depression on the reader

Therefore, you can discuss any of the following areas:

  • Depression disorders
  • How to manage it
  • Ways of helping the victims

To get you jammed up, here are 60 of the best depression topics for research paper. Use them to draw inspiration for your next assignment. If you’re not inspired by the subject or don’t have the time to spend writing essays, it’s best to let professionals write a paper for you. 

Depression Topics For Research Paper on the Causes

  • How upsetting or stressful life events such as death can lead to depression
  • Why people feel low after a severe illness or undergoing a major surgery
  • The role of the ‘downward spiral’ of events in triggering depression
  • Difficult social and economic circumstances that cause depression
  • Personality traits such as low self-esteem and their role in depression
  • Is depression a hereditary illness passed down to family members?
  • Why some women may be vulnerable to depression after giving birth
  • Why the feeling of loneliness is a significant risk
  • How alcohol and drugs can leave you in a state of depression
  • Longstanding illnesses that may trigger depression among people

Topic Ideas For a Postpartum Depression Research Paper

  • The impact of hormone level drop after giving birth
  • Why you may be depressed if you didn’t want to get pregnant
  • Reasons why new moms may be at risk of getting depressed
  • How long does postpartum take to subside in new mothers?
  • What causes intense irritability and anger after giving birth?
  • Why would one develop the fear of not being a good mother?
  • Can postpartum depression lead to a mother harming her child?
  • Impact of postpartum depression on a mother’s ability to think straight
  • Symptoms of postpartum depression in new fathers
  • How to help new fathers adopt responsibility

Research Paper on Depression in College Students

  • Why do most college students in their last year experience depression?
  • Are lecturers to blame for depression among students?
  • The role of homework in causing depression among students
  • Consequences and risks of depression among students
  • The problem of relationships in college
  • Increasing cases of suicide among students
  • Stressful college life events that stir depression
  • Self-harming behaviors among college students
  • How to diagnose and treat depression among college students
  • Depression and academic performance among students

Teen Depression Research Paper Topic Ideas

  • Excessive use of technology among teens and depression
  • Why most teens seek out drugs as a remedy for depression
  • Financial stresses on teens and how they are compelled to depression
  • Why most teens feel depressed after a relationship break-up
  • Debt and depression among teens
  • The role of parents in managing depression among teens
  • The place of peer pressure in causing depression among teenagers
  • Can parental over-involvement lead to the development of stress among teens?
  • Why most teens do not seek help why they are depressed
  • Who are the most vulnerable between the male and female teens, and why?

Topics For Coronavirus and Depression Research Papers

  • Why are there increased cases of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How to deal with depression while staying at home
  • How the government can help alleviate depression among citizens
  • How to deal with a job loss during COVID-19
  • How loneliness is killing many people in their homes
  • Stigmatization and its impact on COVID-19 patients
  • Why the media is the most significant source of depression during the coronavirus
  • Activities you can engage in during the coronavirus pandemic
  • How journaling can help you overcome depression
  • Ways of fending for low-income families

Depression Research Questions To Consider in 2023

  • Can you trust a psychologist to help?
  • Why do most depression cases end up in suicide?
  • Should we have a national day on sensitization against depression?
  • What is the role of the family in combating depression?
  • How should we treat depressed friends?
  • Should we share our depression stories on Facebook?
  • Do children experience depression?
  • Why should you check up on your friends daily?
  • Is cyber-bullying killing people?
  • Why teens should not engage in relationships

Don’t afraid to ask for help with your college papers. Just leave a message, “Please, help me do my assignment !” and do not let your depression research paper be the reason why you feel stressed. If you need high qualitative help with your research or other subjects, contact our expert writers. We offer quality, cheap, and fast, professional paper writing help to college students. Order your paper today and get time to relax!

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Great Depression Research Paper Topics

Academic Writing Service

In this comprehensive guide on Great Depression research paper topics , we delve into the fascinating world of one of the most significant economic crises in history. As students studying history and assigned to write a research paper, it is essential to explore a wide range of engaging and thought-provoking topics related to the Great Depression. This page offers a comprehensive list of Great Depression research paper topics, an article on the Great Depression and its impact, expert advice on topic selection, tips on writing an effective research paper, and information about iResearchNet’s writing services. By following this guide, you will gain valuable insights and resources to unleash your potential and excel in your Great Depression research papers.

100 Great Depression Research Paper Topics

The Great Depression was a period of immense economic turmoil that gripped the world in the 1930s. It left a profound impact on various aspects of society and shaped the course of history. As a student of history, delving into the depths of this significant era provides a multitude of research opportunities. In this section, we present a comprehensive list of Great Depression research paper topics, divided into ten categories. These topics encompass a wide range of subjects and perspectives, allowing you to explore different facets of this transformative period.

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Economic Causes and Effects:

  • The Stock Market Crash of 1929: Causes, Consequences, and Lessons Learned
  • Banking Failures and the Collapse of the Financial System during the Great Depression
  • Unemployment and its Social and Economic Implications during the Great Depression
  • The Role of Government Policies in Shaping the Economic Landscape of the Great Depression
  • The Impact of International Trade and Protectionism on the Global Economy during the Great Depression
  • Changes in Monetary and Fiscal Policy Approaches in Response to the Great Depression
  • Economic Inequality and the Great Depression: Examining the Disparities
  • The Role of Consumer Spending and Investment Patterns in Shaping the Great Depression
  • Economic Recovery Efforts and the Effectiveness of New Deal Programs
  • Comparative Analysis of the Great Depression with Other Economic Crises

Social Impact and Cultural Changes:

  • Poverty and Homelessness in the Great Depression: Causes, Experiences, and Responses
  • Gender Roles and Women’s Experiences during the Great Depression
  • African Americans and the Great Depression: Struggles, Activism, and Cultural Expression
  • Art and Literature as Responses to the Great Depression: Depictions of Hardships and Resilience
  • Social Movements and Labor Unions during the Great Depression: Strikes, Protests, and Reforms
  • The Role of Education and Intellectual Life during the Great Depression
  • Migration and Mobility during the Great Depression: Impact on Communities and Culture
  • The Influence of Music and Entertainment on Society during the Great Depression
  • Changes in Family Dynamics and Relationships during the Great Depression
  • Public Health and Social Welfare Systems during the Great Depression: Challenges and Reforms

Government Interventions and Policies:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal: Analyzing its Objectives, Implementation, and Results
  • Role of the Federal Reserve in the Great Depression: Monetary Policy and Regulation
  • Social Security Act of 1935: Origins, Implementation, and Long-Term Impact
  • Agricultural Adjustment Act and its Effects on the Farming Community
  • The National Industrial Recovery Act: Assessing its Goals, Strategies, and Legacy
  • The Works Progress Administration (WPA): Job Creation and Infrastructure Projects
  • The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): Environmental Conservation during the Great Depression
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): Regulating Financial Markets after the Crash
  • The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA): Providing Relief to the Needy
  • The Role of International Organizations and Agreements in Addressing the Global Effects of the Great Depression

Global Perspectives:

  • The Global Spread and Impact of the Great Depression: Comparative Analysis
  • The Great Depression in Europe: Causes, Effects, and Recovery Strategies
  • The Great Depression and the Rise of Fascism: Examining the Interconnections
  • Latin America’s Experience of the Great Depression: Economic Challenges and Political Shifts
  • The Great Depression in Asia: Exploring Economic, Social, and Political Transformations
  • The Role of International Financial Institutions in Mitigating the Global Effects of the Great Depression
  • The Impact of Colonialism and Imperialism on Economic Vulnerability during the Great Depression
  • The Great Depression and International Relations: Shifting Power Dynamics and Diplomatic Challenges
  • Lessons Learned from the Great Depression: Policy Recommendations for Future Economic Crises
  • Historical Comparisons: Assessing the Great Depression in Relation to Other Global Economic Downturns

Psychological and Social Welfare:

  • Psychological Impact of the Great Depression on Individuals and Communities
  • Mental Health Services and the Understanding of Mental Illness during the Great Depression
  • The Role of Charity and Philanthropy in Assisting those Affected by the Great Depression
  • Social Welfare Programs and Relief Efforts: Examining their Design and Effectiveness
  • The Influence of Social Work and Social Workers during the Great Depression
  • The Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in Providing Support during the Great Depression
  • The Impact of Childhood Experiences during the Great Depression: Long-Term Effects
  • Social Assistance and Relief Programs: Comparing Strategies and Approaches
  • Social Movements and Grassroots Activism for Social Justice during the Great Depression
  • The Influence of Public Opinion and Mass Media on Social Welfare Policies

Impact on Specific Industries:

  • The Automobile Industry during the Great Depression: Challenges, Innovations, and Recovery
  • Impact of the Great Depression on the Banking and Financial Sector
  • Film Industry during the Great Depression: Entertainment and Escapism in Troubled Times
  • The Construction Industry during the Great Depression: Infrastructure Development and Public Works Projects
  • The Impact of the Great Depression on the Textile and Manufacturing Industries
  • Changes in the Agricultural Sector during the Great Depression: Farming Practices and Government Interventions
  • Mining and Natural Resource Industries during the Great Depression: Challenges and Adaptations
  • The Role of Labor Unions in Protecting Workers’ Rights during the Great Depression
  • Impact of the Great Depression on the Shipping and Maritime Industry
  • The Aviation Industry during the Great Depression: Technological Advances and Commercial Aviation Expansion

Political Climate and Leadership:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Leadership during the Great Depression: Policies and Legacy
  • Opposition and Criticisms of New Deal Programs: Political Debates and Alternative Proposals
  • Role of Political Parties and Electoral Shifts during the Great Depression
  • Populist Movements and Responses to Economic Hardships: The Influence of Radical Politics
  • The Role of Women in Politics during the Great Depression: Activism and Reform Efforts
  • The Impact of the Great Depression on the Presidency and the Executive Branch
  • Socialism, Communism, and the Great Depression: Ideological Shifts and Debates
  • The Role of the Supreme Court in Shaping New Deal Policies and their Constitutionality
  • The Influence of International Relations and Geopolitics on National Responses to the Great Depression
  • Political Movements and Grassroots Activism during the Great Depression: Lessons for Today

Cultural and Artistic Responses:

  • Literature of the Great Depression: Themes, Styles, and Authors
  • Visual Arts during the Great Depression: Depictions of Hardship and Social Commentary
  • Music and the Great Depression: Exploring Jazz, Blues, and Folk Music Movements
  • Theatre and Performance Arts during the Great Depression: Escapism and Social Critique
  • Photography and Documentary Projects: Capturing the Realities of the Great Depression
  • Radio and Broadcasting during the Great Depression: Entertainment and News Dissemination
  • The Influence of Hollywood Films on Popular Culture during the Great Depression
  • Dance and Dance Halls during the Great Depression: Cultural Expression and Social Gathering
  • Sports and Athletics during the Great Depression: Resilience and National Identity
  • Fashion and Popular Culture Trends during the Great Depression: Reflections of Social Change

Regional Perspectives:

  • The Great Depression in the United States: Regional Variations and Local Impacts
  • The Great Depression in Rural Communities: Challenges and Agricultural Adjustments
  • Urban Areas during the Great Depression: Impact on Cities, Migration, and Community Dynamics
  • The Great Depression in Europe: Regional Responses and Recovery Strategies
  • The Great Depression in Asia: Regional Economic Shifts and Political Unrest
  • Latin America’s Experience of the Great Depression: Economic Policies and Social Transformations
  • The Great Depression in Africa: Colonial Economies and Indigenous Responses
  • The Impact of the Great Depression on the Caribbean: Trade, Tourism, and Political Instability
  • The Great Depression in the Middle East: Oil, Colonialism, and Economic Resilience
  • The Great Depression in Oceania: Impacts on Indigenous Communities and Trade Relations

Lessons Learned and Legacy:

  • Economic Policies and Regulations Implemented Post-Great Depression: Analysis and Evaluation
  • The Great Depression’s Influence on Modern Economic Thought and Macroeconomic Theory
  • The Great Depression and the Formation of International Financial Institutions
  • Comparative Analysis of the Great Depression with Subsequent Economic Crises
  • The Long-Term Social and Economic Consequences of the Great Depression
  • Historical Reflections on the Lasting Impact of the Great Depression: Lessons for Today
  • The Great Depression’s Influence on Government Intervention and Social Welfare Programs
  • The Role of Economic Forecasting and Risk Management in Post-Great Depression Policies
  • The Great Depression and Changes in Economic Theory and Policy Approaches
  • Evaluating the Successes and Failures of Recovery Efforts during the Great Depression

This comprehensive list of Great Depression research paper topics offers a diverse array of subjects for exploration and analysis. Whether you are interested in the economic, social, cultural, political, or regional aspects of this era, there is a topic to suit your research interests. By selecting a topic from this list, you can delve into the complexities of the Great Depression, uncovering its causes, effects, and the lessons it holds for the present and future.

The Great Depression: Exploring its Impact and Historical Significance

The Great Depression stands as one of the most transformative periods in modern history, leaving an indelible mark on societies around the world. This 2000-word article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the Great Depression, its historical context, and its profound significance. By delving into the range of Great Depression research paper topics, we can gain valuable insights into the causes and effects of the economic collapse, its social impact, and the government responses that shaped the path to recovery. Through the study of the Great Depression, we can better understand the complexities of economic systems, social inequality, and the role of government intervention in times of crisis.

  • The Historical Context : The article begins by setting the stage for the Great Depression, exploring the economic prosperity of the 1920s, the underlying factors that contributed to the collapse, and the global context in which it unfolded. It highlights the interconnectedness of economies and the far-reaching consequences of the financial downturn.
  • The Causes of the Great Depression : This section delves into the causes of the Great Depression, examining factors such as the stock market crash of 1929, the unsustainable economic practices of the time, and the impact of international events. It explores the intricate web of circumstances that led to the onset of the devastating economic downturn.
  • The Effects of the Great Depression : Here, we explore the wide-ranging effects of the Great Depression on individuals, families, businesses, and entire nations. We discuss the soaring unemployment rates, widespread poverty, loss of homes and farms, and the resulting social and psychological impact on affected communities. The section also highlights the global ramifications, including a decline in international trade, financial instability, and political shifts.
  • Social Impact and Cultural Changes : The Great Depression had a profound impact on society, reshaping social norms, cultural attitudes, and the fabric of communities. This section explores the challenges faced by various social groups, such as women, minorities, and workers. It discusses the emergence of social movements, the role of art and literature as responses to the crisis, and the cultural shifts that took place during this period.
  • Government Responses and Policies : The government responses to the Great Depression played a critical role in shaping the trajectory of recovery. This section examines the policies implemented by governments around the world, focusing on notable initiatives such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States. It analyzes the effectiveness of these policies, their impact on the economy and society, and the enduring legacy of government intervention.
  • Economic Systems and Lessons Learned : The Great Depression prompted a reevaluation of economic systems and theories. This section explores the debates surrounding capitalism, socialism, and the role of government regulation. It discusses the long-term implications of the Great Depression on economic thought, policy approaches, and the establishment of social safety nets.
  • Social Inequality and Social Justice : Studying the Great Depression provides an opportunity to examine the deep-rooted issues of social inequality and the pursuit of social justice. This section explores the unequal distribution of wealth and resources during the period, the impact on marginalized communities, and the subsequent efforts to address systemic inequalities. It also examines the role of labor unions and their fight for worker rights during this tumultuous time.
  • Government Intervention and the Role of Institutions : The Great Depression led to a significant expansion of government intervention and the establishment of new institutions. This section examines the role of institutions such as the Federal Reserve, the creation of social welfare programs, and the impact of regulatory bodies. It evaluates the lasting effects of these interventions on economic stability, social welfare, and the relationship between the government and the private sector.
  • Global Impact and International Relations : The Great Depression had a profound effect on the global stage, reshaping international relations and sparking geopolitical shifts. This section explores how different countries were affected by the economic downturn and how it influenced their foreign policies. It also examines the efforts to address the global economic crisis through international cooperation and the establishment of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
  • Lessons Learned and Legacy : In this final section, we reflect on the lessons learned from the Great Depression and its enduring legacy. It discusses the reforms and regulations implemented to prevent a similar economic catastrophe in the future, the importance of financial regulation, and the significance of social safety nets. It also examines the long-term impact on economic policies, the role of the government in managing economic crises, and the relevance of studying the Great Depression in the modern world.

The Great Depression stands as a defining moment in history, with profound implications for economic, social, and political systems. By studying the causes, effects, social impact, and government responses of this period, we gain valuable insights into the complexities of economic systems, social inequality, and the role of government intervention. Exploring the range of Great Depression research paper topics allows us to deepen our understanding of this transformative era and its relevance to contemporary society.

How to Choose Great Depression Research Paper Topics

Selecting an engaging and meaningful research topic is crucial when delving into the realm of Great Depression studies. This section provides valuable guidance on how to choose the most suitable research paper topic that aligns with your interests, academic goals, and the significance of this historical period. By following these ten tips, you can navigate through the vast array of potential Great Depression research paper topics and identify a research question that allows for a comprehensive exploration of the Great Depression.

  • Reflect on Personal Interests : Begin by considering your personal interests within the broader context of the Great Depression. Reflect on aspects such as social history, economic policies, cultural impact, or political responses. Exploring Great Depression research paper topics that resonate with your passion will ensure a deeper engagement and motivation throughout the research process.
  • Conduct Preliminary Research : Engage in preliminary research to familiarize yourself with the existing scholarship on the Great Depression. This will help you identify gaps in the literature and uncover potential avenues for further investigation. Consult academic journals, books, and reputable online sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of the current scholarly discourse.
  • Focus on Specific Regions or Time Periods : The Great Depression had a global impact, affecting different regions in unique ways. Consider narrowing your research focus to a specific country, region, or even a particular community. This allows for a more nuanced analysis and provides an opportunity to examine localized experiences and responses to the economic crisis.
  • Analyze Primary and Secondary Sources : Utilize both primary and secondary sources to gather evidence and support your research. Primary sources, such as letters, diaries, government records, and newspapers from the period, offer firsthand accounts and insights. Secondary sources, including scholarly articles and books, provide critical analysis and interpretations of the Great Depression.
  • Explore Different Aspects of the Great Depression : The Great Depression is a multi-faceted historical event that impacted various spheres of life. Consider exploring different aspects, such as the economic causes, social consequences, political responses, cultural expressions, or international relations. By delving into different dimensions, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the era.
  • Examine the Impact on Different Social Groups : The Great Depression affected people from all walks of life differently. Explore the experiences of various social groups, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, farmers, workers, and the urban poor. Investigate how these groups navigated through the economic crisis and the impact it had on their lives.
  • Analyze Government Policies and Programs : Government responses played a significant role in addressing the Great Depression. Choose a research topic that focuses on specific government policies, programs, or initiatives implemented during this time. Analyze their effectiveness, impact on the economy and society, and the long-term consequences of these interventions.
  • Investigate Cultural Responses and Artistic Expressions : The Great Depression fostered a wealth of cultural responses, including literature, music, photography, and visual arts. Explore the cultural expressions of the era and their reflection of the social and economic climate. Analyze the works of artists, writers, and musicians to understand how they captured the experiences and emotions of the time.
  • Consider Comparative Analysis : Comparative analysis allows for a deeper understanding of the Great Depression by examining similarities and differences between different countries, regions, or time periods. Compare the economic, social, and political responses of multiple nations or explore the impact of the Great Depression on different continents.
  • Engage with Historiographical Debates : The study of the Great Depression is dynamic, with ongoing debates and reinterpretations of historical events and their significance. Choose a research topic that engages with these historiographical debates and contributes to the scholarly discourse. By exploring conflicting interpretations, you can develop a nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding the Great Depression.

Choosing a research topic on the Great Depression requires careful consideration and a thoughtful approach. By reflecting on personal interests, conducting preliminary research, focusing on specific regions or time periods, analyzing primary and secondary sources, and exploring various aspects and social groups, you can identify a research question that aligns with your interests and academic goals. Engaging with government policies, cultural expressions, and comparative analysis provides further avenues for exploration. Remember to contribute to historiographical debates and approach your research with critical thinking and analytical skills. By following these ten tips, you will be well-equipped to embark on a successful research journey into the depths of the Great Depression.

How to Write a Great Depression Research Paper

Writing a research paper on the Great Depression requires careful planning, thorough research, and effective communication of your findings. This section provides valuable guidance on how to structure and write a successful research paper that showcases your understanding of this significant historical period. By following these ten tips, you can craft a compelling and insightful paper on the Great Depression.

  • Formulate a Clear Thesis Statement : Start your research paper with a clear and concise thesis statement that articulates the main argument or focus of your study. The thesis statement should guide your research and provide a roadmap for your paper, ensuring coherence and direction throughout.
  • Conduct In-Depth Research : Engage in thorough research to gather relevant and reliable sources that support your thesis statement. Utilize primary and secondary sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Great Depression, its causes, impact, and historical context. Take notes and organize your research material for easy reference.
  • Analyze Primary and Secondary Sources : Carefully analyze the primary and secondary sources you have collected. Critically evaluate the credibility, biases, and limitations of each source. Extract key information and evidence that supports your thesis and provides a robust foundation for your arguments.
  • Outline Your Paper : Create a clear and detailed outline that serves as a roadmap for your research paper. Organize your main points, arguments, and supporting evidence in a logical and coherent manner. The outline will help you maintain focus, structure your paper, and ensure a smooth flow of ideas.
  • Develop a Strong Introduction : Craft an engaging introduction that captures the reader’s attention and provides context for your research. Clearly state your thesis statement and provide a brief overview of the main points you will discuss in your paper. Set the tone for your research and highlight the significance of studying the Great Depression.
  • Present a Coherent Argument : Structure your paper around a well-developed argument that supports your thesis statement. Present your main points in a logical sequence, providing evidence and analysis to support each claim. Ensure that your arguments flow smoothly and are interconnected, building a coherent narrative throughout your paper.
  • Analyze Primary and Secondary Sources : Integrate your analysis of primary and secondary sources into your research paper. Use direct quotes, paraphrasing, and summarization techniques to incorporate evidence from your sources. Analyze the sources critically, demonstrating your ability to interpret and evaluate historical material.
  • Provide Historical Context : Situate your research within the historical context of the Great Depression. Provide background information, discuss relevant events, policies, and social conditions that influenced the period. Help your readers understand the broader significance of your research and its relationship to the historical context.
  • Use Clear and Concise Language : Write in a clear and concise manner, avoiding unnecessary jargon or complex language. Ensure that your ideas are easily understandable and your arguments are well-articulated. Use proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure to enhance the clarity and readability of your paper.
  • Conclude with a Strong Summary : End your research paper with a strong and concise summary that restates your thesis statement and highlights the key findings of your study. Emphasize the significance of your research and its contribution to the understanding of the Great Depression. Reflect on the implications and broader lessons that can be drawn from your analysis.

Writing a research paper on the Great Depression requires careful planning, thorough research, and effective communication of your findings. By formulating a clear thesis statement, conducting in-depth research, and analyzing primary and secondary sources, you can develop a strong foundation for your paper. Organizing your thoughts with a well-structured outline, crafting an engaging introduction, and presenting a coherent argument will ensure a compelling and insightful research paper. Remember to provide historical context, use clear and concise language, and conclude with a strong summary that highlights the significance of your research. By following these ten tips, you will be well-prepared to write a comprehensive and impactful research paper on the Great Depression.

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  • Custom Written Works : We provide custom-written research papers tailored to your specific instructions and guidelines. Our writers start from scratch, ensuring originality and authenticity in every paper. You can trust that your Great Depression research paper will be unique and plagiarism-free.
  • In-Depth Research : Our writers are skilled in conducting thorough and comprehensive research on the Great Depression. They have access to a wide range of reputable sources and scholarly databases to gather the most relevant and up-to-date information for your research paper.
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For more open and equitable public discussions on social media, try “meronymity”

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Have you ever felt reluctant to share ideas during a meeting because you feared judgment from senior colleagues? You’re not alone. Research has shown this pervasive issue can lead to a lack of diversity in public discourse, especially when junior members of a community don’t speak up because they feel intimidated.

Anonymous communication can alleviate that fear and empower individuals to speak their minds, but anonymity also eliminates important social context and can quickly skew too far in the other direction, leading to toxic or hateful speech.

MIT researchers addressed these issues by designing a framework for identity disclosure in public conversations that falls somewhere in the middle, using a concept called “meronymity.”

Meronymity (from the Greek words for “partial” and “name”) allows people in a public discussion space to selectively reveal only relevant, verified aspects of their identity.

The researchers implemented meronymity in a communication system they built called LiTweeture, which is aimed at helping junior scholars use social media to ask research questions.

In LiTweeture, users can reveal a few professional facts, such as their academic affiliation or expertise in a certain field, which lends credibility to their questions or answers while shielding their exact identity.

Users have the flexibility to choose what they reveal about themselves each time they compose a social media post. They can also leverage existing relationships for endorsements that help queries reach experts they otherwise might be reluctant to contact.

During a monthlong study, junior academics who tested LiTweeture said meronymous communication made them feel more comfortable asking questions and encouraged them to engage with senior scholars on social media.

And while this study focused on academia, meronymous communication could be applied to any community or discussion space, says electrical engineering and computer science graduate student Nouran Soliman.

“With meronymity, we wanted to strike a balance between credibility and social inhibition. How can we make people feel more comfortable contributing and leveraging this rich community while still having some accountability?” says Soliman, lead author of a paper on meronymity .

Soliman wrote the paper with her advisor and senior author David Karger, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), as well as others at the Semantic Scholar Team at Allen Institute for AI, the University of Washington, and Carnegie Mellon University. The research will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Breaking down social barriers

The researchers began by conducting an initial study with 20 scholars to better understand the motivations and social barriers they face when engaging online with other academics.

They found that, while academics find X (formerly called Twitter) and Mastodon to be key resources when seeking help with research, they were often reluctant to ask for, discuss, or share recommendations.

Many respondents worried asking for help would make them appear to be unknowledgeable about a certain subject or feared public embarrassment if their posts were ignored.

The researchers developed LiTweeture to enable scholars to selectively present relevant facets of their identity when using social media to ask for research help.

But such identity markers, or “meronyms,” only give someone credibility if they are verified. So the researchers connected LiTweeture to Semantic Scholar, a web service which creates verified academic profiles for scholars detailing their education, affiliations, and publication history.

LiTweeture uses someone’s Semantic Scholar profile to automatically generate a set of meronyms they can choose to include with each social media post they compose. A meronym might be something like, “third-year graduate student at a research institution who has five publications at computer science conferences.”

A user writes a query and chooses the meronyms to appear with this specific post. LiTweeture then posts the query and meryonyms to X and Mastodon.

The user can also identify desired responders — perhaps certain researchers with relevant expertise — who will receive the query through a direct social media message or email. Users can personalize their meronyms for these experts, perhaps mentioning common colleagues or similar research projects.

Sharing social capital

They can also leverage connections by sharing their full identity with individuals who serve as public endorsers, such as an academic advisor or lab mate. Endorsements can encourage experts to respond to the asker’s query.

“The endorsement lets a senior figure donate some of their social capital to people who don’t have as much of it,” Karger says.

In addition, users can recruit close colleagues and peers to be helpers who are willing to repost their query so it reaches a wider audience.

Responders can answer queries using meronyms, which encourages potentially shy academics to offer their expertise, Soliman says.

The researchers tested LiTweeture during a field study with 13 junior academics who were tasked with writing and responding to queries. Participants said meronymous interactions gave them confidence when asking for help and provided high-quality recommendations.

Participants also used meronyms to seek a certain kind of answer. For instance, a user might disclose their publication history to signal that they are not seeking the most basic recommendations. When responding, individuals used identity signals to reflect their level of confidence in a recommendation, for example by disclosing their expertise.

“That implicit signaling was really interesting to see. I was also very excited to see that people wanted to connect with others based on their identity signals. This sense of relation also motivated some responders to make more effort when answering questions,” Soliman says.

Now that they have built a framework around academia, the researchers want to apply meronymity to other online communities and general social media conversations, especially those around issues where there is a lot of conflict, like politics. But to do that, they will need to find an effective, scalable way for people to present verified aspects of their identities.

“I think this is a tool that could be very helpful in many communities. But we have to figure out how to thread the needle on social inhibition. How can we create an environment where everyone feels safe speaking up, but also preserve enough accountability to discourage bad behavior? says Karger.

“Meronymity is not just a concept; it's a novel technique that subtly blends aspects of identity and anonymity, creating a platform where credibility and privacy coexist. It changes digital communications by allowing safe engagement without full exposure, addressing the traditional anonymity-accountability trade-off. Its impact reaches beyond academia, fostering inclusivity and trust in digital interactions,” says Saiph Savage, assistant professor and director of the Civic A.I. Lab in the Khoury College of Computer Science at Northeastern University, and who was not involved with this work.

This research was funded, in part, by Semantic Scholar.

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Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Undergraduate Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic and their Use of Mental Health Services

Jungmin lee.

1 Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation, University of Kentucky, 597 S. Upper Street, 131 Taylor Education Building, Lexington, KY 40506-0001 USA

Hyun Ju Jeong

2 Department of Integrated Strategic Communication, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY USA

3 Division of Biomedical Informatics, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY USA

Associated Data

Not applicable.

The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has brought significant changes to college students, but there is a lack of empirical studies regarding how the pandemic has affected student mental health among college students in the U.S. To fill the gap in the literature, this study describes stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms for students in a public research university in Kentucky during an early phase of COVID-19 and their usage of mental health services. Results show that about 88% of students experienced moderate to severe stress, with 44% of students showing moderate to severe anxiety and 36% of students having moderate to severe depression. In particular, female, rural, low-income, and academically underperforming students were more vulnerable to these mental health issues. However, a majority of students with moderate or severe mental health symptoms never used mental health services. Our results call for proactively reaching out to students, identifying students at risk of mental health issues, and providing accessible care.

The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has brought significant and sudden changes to college students. To protect and prevent students, faculty, and staff members from the disease, higher education institutions closed their campus in the spring of 2020 and made a quick transition to online classes. Students were asked to evacuate on a short notice, adjust to new online learning environments, and lose their paid jobs in the middle of the semester. The pandemic has also raised concerns among college students about the health of their family and friends (Brown & Kafka, 2020 ). Because all these changes were unprecedented and intensive, they caused psychological distress among students, especially during the first few months of the pandemic. There is abundant anecdotal evidence describing students’ stress and emotional difficulties as impacted by COVID-19, but there are only a few empirical studies available that directly measure college student mental health since the outbreak (e.g., Huckins et al., 2020 ; Kecojevic et al., 2020 ; Son et al., 2020 ). Most existing studies focus on mental health for general populations (e.g., Gao et al., 2020 ) or health care workers (e.g., Chen et al., 2020 ), whose results may not be applicable to college students. Given that college students are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues (e.g., Kitzrow, 2003 ), it is important to explore their mental health during this unprecedented crisis.

In this study, we describe the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression for undergraduate students in a public research university during the six weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak alongside their usage of mental health services. Using a self-administered online survey, we measured stress, anxiety, and depression levels with well-established clinical tools and asked the extent to which college students used on-campus and off-campus mental health services for the academic year. Our results revealed that more than eight out of ten students surveyed experienced modest or severe stress, and approximately 36–44% of respondents showed moderate or severe anxiety and depression. However, more than 60% of students with moderate or severe stress, anxiety, or depression had never utilized mental health services on- or off-campus. Although focusing on a single institution, this paper is one of the few studies that empirically examine mental health of college students in the U.S. during the early phase of the pandemic. Findings from this paper reassure the seriousness of student mental health during the pandemic and call for a proactive mental health assessment and increased support for college students.

Literature Review

Covid-19 and student mental health.

Empirical studies reported a high prevalence of college mental health issues during the early phase of COVID-19 around the world (Cao et al., 2020 ; Chang et al., 2020 ; Liu et al., 2020 , Rajkumar, 2020 ; Saddik et al., 2020 ). In the U.S. a few, but a growing number of empirical surveys and studies were conducted to assess college students’ mental health during the pandemic. Three nationwide surveys conducted across the U.S. conclude that college student mental health became worse during the pandemic. According to an online survey administered by Active Minds in mid-April of 2020, 80% of college students across the country reported that COVID-19 negatively affected their mental health, with 20% reporting that their mental health had significantly worsened (Horn, 2020 ). It is also concerning that 56% of students did not know where to go if they had immediate needs for professional mental health services (Horn, 2020 ). Another nationwide survey conducted from late-May to early-June also revealed that 85% of college students felt increased anxiety and stress during the pandemic, but only 21% of respondents sought a licensed counselor or a professional (Timely MD, n.d. ) According to the Healthy Minds Network’s survey (2020), which collected data from 14 college campuses across the country between March and May of 2020, the percentage of students with depression increased by 5.2% compared to the year before. However, 58.2% of respondents never tried mental health care and about 60% of students felt that it became more difficult to access to mental health care since the pandemic. These survey results clearly illustrate that an overwhelming majority of college students in the U.S. have experienced mental health problems during the early phase of COVID-19, but far fewer students utilized professional help. Despite the timely and valuable information, only Healthy Minds Network ( 2020 ) used clinical tools to measure student mental health, and none of them explored whether student characteristics were associated with mental health symptoms.

To date, only a few scholarly research studies focus on college student mental health in the U.S. since the COVID-19 outbreak. Huckins et al. ( 2020 ) have longitudinally tracked 178 undergraduate students at Dartmouth University for the 2020 winter term (from early-January to late-March of 2020) and found elevated anxiety and depression scores during mid-March when students were asked to leave the campus due to the pandemic. The evacuation decision coincided with the final week, which could have intensified student anxiety and depression. The anxiety and depression scores gradually decreased once the academic term was over, but they were still significantly higher than those measured during academic breaks in previous years. Conducting semi-structured interviews with 195 students at a large public university in Texas, Son et al. ( 2020 ) found that 71% of students surveyed reported increased stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, but only 5% of them used counseling services. The rest of the students explained that they did not use counseling services because they assumed that others would have similar levels of stress and anxiety, they did not feel comfortable talking with unfamiliar people or over the phone, or they did not trust counseling services in general. Common stressors included concerns about their own health or their loved ones’, sleep disruption, reduced social interactions, and difficulty in concentration. Based on a survey from 162 undergraduate students in New Jersey, Kecojevic et al. ( 2020 ) found that female students had a significantly higher level of stress than male students and that upper-class undergraduate students showed a higher level of anxiety than first-year students. Having difficulties in focusing on academic work led to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression (Kecojevic et al., 2020 ).

College Student Mental Health and Usage of Mental Health Services Before COVID-19

College student mental health has long been studied in education, psychology, and medicine even before the pandemic. The general consensus of the literature is that college student mental health is in crisis, worsening in number and severity over time. Before the pandemic in the academic year of 2020, more than one-third of college students across the country were diagnosed by mental health professionals for having at least one mental health symptom (American College Health Association, 2020 ). Anxiety (27.7%) and depression (22.5%) were most frequently diagnosed. The proportion of students with mental health problems is on the rise as well. Between 2009 and 2015, the proportion of students with anxiety or depression increased by 5.9% and 3.2%, respectively (Oswalt et al., 2020 ). Similarly, between 2012 and 2020, scores for depression, general anxiety, and social anxiety have constantly increased among those who visited counseling centers on college campuses (Center for College Mental Health [CCMH], 2021 ).

Some groups are more vulnerable to mental health problems than others. For example, female and LGBTQ students tend to report a higher prevalence of mental health issues than male students (Eisenberg et al., 2007b ; Evans et al., 2018 ; Wyatt et al., 2017 ). However, there is less conclusive evidence on the difference across race or ethnicity. It is well-supported that Asian students and international students report fewer mental health problems than White students and domestic students, but there are mixed results regarding the difference between underrepresented racial minority students (i.e., African-American, Hispanic, and other races) and White students (Hyun et al., 2006 ; Hyun et al., 2007 ). Many researchers find either insignificant differences (e.g., Eisenberg et al., 2007b ) or fewer mental health issues reported for underrepresented minority students compared to White students (e.g., Wyatt et al., 2017 ). This may not necessarily mean that racial minority students tend to have fewer mental health problems, but it may reflect their cultural tendency against disclosing one’s mental health issues to others (Hyun et al., 2007 ; Wyatt & Oswalt, 2013 ). In terms of age, some studies (e.g., Eisenberg et al., 2007b ) reveal that students who are 25 years or older tend to have fewer mental health issues than younger students, while others find it getting worse throughout college (Wyatt et al., 2017 ). Lastly, financial stress significantly increases depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among college students (Eisenberg et al., 2007b ).

Despite the high prevalence of mental health issues, college students tend to underutilize mental health services (Cage et al., 2018 ; Hunt & Eisenberg, 2010 ; Lipson et al., 2019 ; Oswalt et al., 2020 ). The Healthy Minds Study 2018–2019, which collected data from 62,171 college students across the country, reports that 57% of students with positive anxiety or depression screens have not used counseling or therapy, and 64% of them have not taken any psychotropic medications within the past 12 months (Healthy Minds, 2019 ). Even when students had visited a counseling center, about one-fourth of them did not return for a scheduled appointment, and another 14.1% of students declined further services (CCMH, 2021 ). When asked the barriers that prevented them from seeking mental health services, students reported a lack of perceived needs for help (41%), preference to deal with mental health issues on their own or with families and friends (27%), a lack of time (23%), financial difficulty (15%), and a lack of information about where to go (10%). Students who never used mental health services were not sure if their insurance covered mental health treatment or were more skeptical about the effectiveness of treatment (Eisenberg et al., 2007a ). Stigma, students’ view about getting psychological help for themselves, is another significant barrier in seeking help and utilizing mental health services (Cage et al., 2018 ).

Current Study

While previous studies have advanced our understanding of student mental health and their usage of mental health services, we find a lack of empirical studies on these matters, particularly in the context of COVID-19. The goal of this study is to fill the gap with specific investigations into the prevalence and pattern of U.S. college student mental health with regard to counseling service use during the early phase of COVID-19. First, very few studies focus on college students and their mental health during the pandemic, and most nationwide surveys conducted in the U.S. did not use clinically validated tools to measure student mental health. In this study, we have employed the three clinical measures to assess stress, anxiety, and depression, which are the most prevalent mental health problems among college student populations (Leviness et al., 2017 ). Secondly, it should be noted that while empirical research conducted in U.S. institutions clearly demonstrate that college students were under serious mental distress during the pandemic (Huckins et al., 2020 ; Son et al., 2020 ; Kecojevic et al., 2020 ), such studies have relatively small sample sizes and rarely examined whether particular groups were more vulnerable than others during the pandemic. To overcome such limitations, the present study has recruited a relatively large number of students from all degree-seeking students enrolled at the study institution. Further, given the high prevalence of mental health issues, we have identified vulnerable student groups and provided suggestions regarding necessary support for these students in an effort to reduce mental health disparity. Lastly, previous studies (e.g., Healthy Minds, 2019 ) show that college students, even those with mental health issues, tended to underutilize counseling services before the pandemic. Yet, there is limited evidence regarding whether this continued to be the case during COVID-19. Our study provides empirical evidence regarding the utilization of mental health services during the early phase of the pandemic and identifies its predictors. Based on the preceding discussions, we address the following research questions in this study:

First, how prevalent were stress, anxiety, and depression among college students during the early phase of the pandemic? Second, to what extent have students utilized mental health services on- and off-campus? Third, what are the predictors of mental health symptoms and the usage of mental health services?

We collected data via a self-administered online survey. This survey was designed to measure student mental health, the usage of mental health services, and demographics. The survey was sent to all degree-seeking students enrolled in a public research university in Kentucky for the spring of 2020. An invitation email was first sent on March 23, which was two days after the university announced campus closure, and two more reminder emails were sent in mid-April and late-April. The survey was available until May 8th, which was the last day of the semester.

A total of 2691 students (out of 24,146 qualified undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students enrolled for the semester) responded to the survey. The response rate was 11.14%, but this is acceptable as it is within the range of Internet survey response rates, which is anywhere from 1 to 30% (Wimmer & Dominick, 2006 ). We deleted responses from 632 students who did not answer any mental health questions, which left 2059 valid students for the analysis. In this study, we focused on undergraduate students because they are significantly different from graduate students in terms of demographics (e.g., racial composition, age, and income) and major stressors (Wyatt & Oswalt, 2013 ). As a result, 1412 undergraduate students are included in our sample. 90% of these students had complete data. The rest of students skipped a couple of questions (usually related to their residency) but answered most of the question. Thus, we conducted multiple imputation, created ten imputed data sets, and ran regression models using these imputed data (Allison, 2002 ). Our regression results using imputed data are qualitatively similar to the estimates using original data; however, for comparison, we also provided the regression estimates using original data in Appendix Tables  6 and ​ and7. 7 . Please note that we still used original data for descriptive research questions (presented in Tables  1 , ​ ,2, 2 , and ​ and4) 4 ) to accurately describe the prevalence of mental health symptoms and use of counseling services.

Descriptive statistics of sample characteristics

Descriptive statistics for stress, anxiety, and depression prevalence

Usage of mental health services among students with moderate or severe symptoms

Ordinal logistic regression models for severity of mental health symptoms (original data)

Odds ratio are reported, and numbers in parentheses are standard error

+ p  < 0.1, * p  < 0.05, ** p  < 0.01, *** p  < 0.001

Logistic regression models predicting the usage of mental health services (original data)

+ p < 0.1, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001

Table  1 provides descriptive statistics for students in our data. Female (73%), White (86%), and students who are below 25 years old (95%) are the vast majority of our sample. About one in four students are rural students and/or students from Appalachian areas (27%) and first-generation students (23%). Wealthier students (whose family income was $100,000 or more) make up about 44% of the sample (44%). Compared to the undergraduate student population at the study site, female students (56.3% at the study site) are overrepresented in our study. The proportion of White students is slightly higher in our sample (86%) than the study population (84%), and that of first-generation students is slightly lower in our sample (23%) than that in the study population (26%).

There are five key outcome variables for this study. The first three outcome variables are stress, anxiety, and depression, and the other two variables are the extent to which students used on-campus and off-campus mental health services for the academic year, respectively. Our mental health measures are well-established and widely used in a clinical setting. For stress, we used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) that includes ten items asking students’ feelings and perceived stress measured on a 5-point Likert scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree) (Cohen et al., 1983 ). Using the sum of scores from the ten items, the cut-off score for low, moderate, and high stress is 13, 26, and 40, respectively. PSS scale was used in hundreds of studies and validated in many languages (Samaha & Hawi, 2016 ). PSS also has a high internal consistency reliability. Of the recent studies that used the instrument to measure mental health of U.S. college students, Cronbach’s alpha was around 0.83 to 0.87, which exceeded the commonly used cut-off of 0.70 (Adams et al., 2016 ; Burke et al., 2016 ; Samaha & Hawi, 2016 ).

We used the General Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) scale to measure anxiety. This is a brief self-report scale to identify probable cases of anxiety disorders (Spitzer et al., 2006 ). The GAD scores of 5, 10, and 15 are taken as the cut-off points for mild, moderate, and severe anxiety, respectively. In a clinical setting, anyone with a score of 10 or above are recommended for further evaluation. GAD is moderately good at screening three other common anxiety disorders - panic disorder (sensitivity 74%, specificity 81%), social anxiety disorder (sensitivity 72%, specificity 80%), and post-traumatic stress disorder (sensitivity 66%, specificity 81%) (Spitzer et al., 2006 ) In their recent study, Johnson, et al. ( 2019 ) validated that “the GAD-7 has excellent internal consistency, and the one-factor structure in a heterogeneous clinical population was supported” (p. 1).

Lastly, depression was assessed with the eight-item Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Depression Short Form (Pilkonis et al., 2014 ). A score less than 17 is considered as none to slight depression, a score between 17 and 21 is considered as mild depression, a score between 22 and 32 is considered as moderate depression, and a score of 33 or above is considered as severe depression. PROMIS depression scale is a universal, rather than a disease-specific, measure that was developed using item response theory to promote greater precision and reduce respondent burden (Shensa et al., 2018 ). The scale has been correlated and validated with other commonly used depression instruments, including the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (Lin et al., 2016 ).

When it comes to the usage of psychological and counseling services, we asked students to indicate the extent to which they used free on-campus resources (e.g., counseling center) and off-campus paid health professional services (e.g., psychiatrists) anytime during the academic year on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (very often), respectively. These questions do not specifically ask if students utilized these services after the COVID-19 outbreak, but responses for these questions indicate whether and how often students had used any of these services for the academic year until they responded to our survey.

We also collected data about student demographics and characteristics including student gender, race or ethnicity, age, class levels (freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior), first generation student status (1 = neither parent has a bachelor’s degree, 0 = at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree), family income, residency (rural and/or Appalachian students, international students), GPAs, and perceived stigma about seeking counseling or therapy (i.e., “I am afraid of what my family and friends will say or think of me if I seek counseling/therapy”) measured on a 5-point Likert scale. We used these variables to see if they were associated with a high level of stress, anxiety, and depression and the usage of mental health services.

We used descriptive statistics, ordinal logistic regression, and logistic regression models in this study. To address the first and second research questions, we used descriptive statistics and presented the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the frequency of using mental health services. For the third research question, we adopted ordinal logistic regression and logistic regression models depending on outcome variables. We used ordinal logistic regression models to identify correlates of different levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, which were measured in ordinal variables (e.g., mild, moderate, and severe). For the usage of mental health service outcomes, we employed logistic regression models. Because more than two-thirds of students in the sample never utilized either type of mental health services, we re-coded the usage variables into binary variables (1 = used services, 0 = never used services) and ran logistic regression models.

Limitations

Our study is not without limitations. First, we do not claim a causal relationship in this study, but we describe the state of mental health for students soon after the COVID-19 outbreak. We acknowledge that many students may have suffered from mental health problems before the pandemic, with some experiencing escalation after the outbreak (e.g., Horn, 2020 ). Even if our study does not provide a causal relationship, we believe that it is important to measure and document student mental health during the pandemic so that practitioners can be aware of the seriousness of this issue and consider ways to better serve students. Secondly, our study results may not be applicable to students in other institutions or states. We collected data from a public research university in Kentucky where the number of confirmed cases and deaths were relatively lower than other states such as New York. The study site mainly serves traditional college students who attend college right after high school, who live on campus, and who do not have dependents. Therefore, mental health for students at other types of institutions or in other states could be different from what is presented in our study.

Prevalence of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Table  2 shows the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression. Overall, a majority of students experienced psychological distress during the early phase of the pandemic. When it comes to stress, about 63% of students had a moderate level of stress, and another 24.61% of students fell into a severe stress category. Only 12% of students had a low level of stress. In other words, more than eight in ten students in the survey experienced moderate to severe stress during the pandemic. This result is comparable to the Active Minds’ survey results that report 91% of college students reported experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety since the pandemic (Horn, 2020 ).

In terms of anxiety, approximately 24% and 21% of students in our study had moderate and severe anxiety disorders, respectively. Given that those who scored 10 or above on the GAD-7 scale (moderate to severe category) are recommended to meet with professionals (Spitzer et al., 2006 ), this finding implies that nearly half of students in this study needed to get professional help. This proportion of students with moderate to severe anxiety is almost double that for university students in China (e.g., Chang et al., 2020 ) or the United Arab Emirates soon after the COVID-19 outbreak (Saddik et al., 2020 ). Lastly, approximately 30% and 6% of students suffered from moderate and severe depression, respectively. These proportions are far higher than college students in China measured during the pandemic (Chang et al., 2020 ) but slightly higher than a nationwide sample of U.S. college students assessed before the pandemic (Healthy Minds, 2019 ). Given that our study measured these mental health symptoms for the first six weeks of the pandemic, we speculate that the proportion of students with moderate or severe depression would increase over time.

In order to explore predictors of a higher level of stress, anxiety, and depression, we ran ordinal logistic regression models as presented in Table  3 . Overall, it is clear and consistent that the odds of experiencing a higher level of stress, anxiety, and depression (e.g., severe than moderate, moderate than mild, etc.) were significantly greater for female students by a factor of 1.489, 1.723, and 1.246 than the odds for male students when other things were held constant. This gender difference in mental health symptoms is quite consistent with other studies before and during the pandemic (Eisenberg et al., 2007a ; Kecojevic et al., 2020 ). When it comes to race or ethnicity, the odds of experiencing a higher level of stress, anxiety, and depression for African-American students were almost as half as the odds for White students. However, there was no significant difference in the odds for Hispanic and Asian students compared to White students. Student class level was significantly related to stress and anxiety levels: The odds were greater for upper-class students than lower class students. This result is consistent with Kecojevic et al. ( 2020 ), which reported significantly higher levels of anxiety among upper-class students compared to freshman students. It may reflect that one of major stressors for college students during the pandemic is the uncertain future of their education and job prospects, which would be a bigger concern for upper-class students (Timely MD, n.d.).

Ordinal logistic regression models for severity of mental health symptoms (imputed data)

One’s rurality, family income, and GPA were significantly associated with the severity of mental health symptoms. The odds of experiencing a severe level of anxiety and depression were 1.325 and 1.270 times higher among rural students than urban and suburban students. With every one unit increase in family income or students’ GPAs, the odds of experiencing a more severe stress, anxiety, and depression significantly decreased. This result suggests that students from disadvantaged backgrounds were even more vulnerable to psychological distress during the early phase of the pandemic. The negative association between GPAs and mental distress levels was consistent with previous studies that showed that college students were very concerned about their academic performances and had difficulty in concentration during the early phase of the pandemic (Kecojevic et al., 2020 ; Son et al., 2020 ).

Usage of Mental Health Services

In Table  4 , we first describe the extent to which students with moderate to severe symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression used mental health services on- and off-campus during the academic year. The university in this study has provided free counseling services for students, and the counseling services have continued to be available for students in the state via phone or Internet even after the university was closed after the outbreak. Table ​ Table4 4 presents the frequency of students using on-campus mental health services (Panel A) and off-campus paid mental health services (Panel B) on a five-point scale. For this table, we limited the sample to students with moderate to severe symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression to focus on students who were in need of these services. Surprisingly, a majority of these students never used mental health services on- and off-campus even when their stress, anxiety, or depression scores indicated that they needed professional help. More than 60% of students with moderate to severe symptoms never used on-campus services, and more than two-thirds of students never used off-campus mental health services. This underutilization of mental health resources is concerning but not surprising given that college students tended not to use counseling services before and during the pandemic as presented in previous studies (e.g., CCMH, 2021 ; Healthy minds, 2019 ; Son et al., 2020 ).

In order to explore predictors of the usage of mental health services, we ran logistic regression models as shown in Table  5 . We included all students in these regression models to see whether a severity of mental health symptoms was related to the usage of mental health services. Table ​ Table5 5 presents the results for the usage of any mental health services, on-campus mental health services, and off-campus mental health services, respectively. Overall, stress, anxiety, and depression levels were positively associated with using mental health services on- and off-campus: With every one unit increase in each of these mental health symptoms, the odds of using on- and off-campus mental health services significantly increased. This result is relieving as it suggests that students who were in great need of these services actually used them. Other than mental health symptoms, there were different predictors for utilizing on-campus and off-campus services. African-American and Hispanic students were significantly more likely to use on-campus services than White students. The odds of using on-campus mental health services were 3.916 times higher for African-American students and 2.032 times higher for Hispanic students than White students. This result is interesting given that the odds of having severe mental distress were significantly lower for African-American students than White students, according to Table ​ Table3. 3 . It may suggest that African-American students reported relatively lower levels of mental health symptoms as they had been using on-campus mental health services at higher rates. The odds of using on-campus mental health services were 2.269 times higher for international students than domestic students, but there was no significant difference in the odds of using off-campus services between the two groups. Students’ age was significantly associated with the usage of on-campus and off-campus mental health services: The odds of using on-campus services were significantly lower for older students, while the odds of utilizing off-campus services were significantly higher for older students compared to younger students. When it comes to using off-campus mental health services, the odds were significantly higher for female students, older students, and upper-class students than male students, younger students, and lower classman students. Students who were concerned with stigma associated with getting counseling and therapy were less likely to utilize off-campus mental health services.

Logistic regression models predicting the usage of mental health services (imputed data)

Discussions

Our paper describes the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression among a sample of undergraduate students in a public research university during an early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. Using well-established clinical tools, we find that stress, anxiety, and depression were the pervasive problems for college student population during the pandemic. In particular, female, rural, low-income, and academically low-performing students were more vulnerable to psychological distress. Despite its prevalence, about two-thirds of students with moderate to severe symptoms had not utilized mental health services on- and off-campus. These key findings are very concerning considering that mental health is strongly associated with student well-being, academic outcomes, and retention (Bruffaerts et al., 2018 ; Wyatt et al., 2017 ).

Above all, we reiterate that college student mental health is in crisis during the pandemic and call for increased attention and interventions on this issue. More than eight in ten students in our study had moderate to severe stress, and more than one thirds of students experienced moderate to severe anxiety and/or depression. This is much worse than American college students before the COVID-19 (e.g., American College Health Association, 2020 ) and postsecondary students in other countries during the pandemic (e.g., Chang et al., 2020 ; Saddik et al., 2020 ). In particular, rural students, low-income students, and students with low GPAs were more vulnerable to psychological distress. These students have already faced multiple barriers in pursuing higher education (e.g., Adelman, 2006 ; Byun et al., 2012 ), and additional mental health issues would put them at a high risk of dropping out of college. Lastly, although they were dropped from the main analysis due to the small sample size ( n  = 17), it is still noteworthy that a significantly higher proportion of LGBTQ students in our sample experienced severe stress, anxiety, and depression, which calls for significant attention and care for these students.

Despite the high prevalence of mental health problems, a majority of students with moderate to severe symptoms never used mental health services during the academic year, even though the university provided free counseling services. This result could be partially explained by the fact that the university’s counseling center switched to virtual counseling since the COVID-19 outbreak, which was available only for students who stayed within the state due to the license restriction across state boarders. This transition could limit access to necessary care for out-of-state students, international students, or students in remote areas where telecommunications or the internet connection is not very stable. Even worse, these students may also have limited access to off-campus health professionals due to the geographic restrictions (rural students), limited insurance coverage (international students), or a lack of financial means. Our results support that international students relied significantly more on on-campus resources than domestic students. We urge practitioners and policy makers to provide additional mental health resources that are accessible, affordable, and available for students regardless of their locations, insurance, and financial means, such as informal peer conversation groups or regular check-ins via phone calls or texts.

It is also important to point out that the overall usage of both on-campus and off-campus mental health services was generally low even before the COVID-19 outbreak. Previous studies consistently report that college students underutilize mental health services not only because of a lack of information, financial means, or available seats but also because of a paucity of perceived needs or stigma related to revealing one’s mental health issues to others (Cage et al., 2018 ; Eisenberg et al., 2007a ; Son et al., 2020 ). Our results support this finding by demonstrating that stigma one associated with getting counseling or therapy negatively influenced their utilization of off-campus mental health services. Considering these barriers, practitioners should deliver a clear message publicly that mental health problems are very common among college students and that it is natural and desirable to seek professional help if students feel stressed out, anxious, or depressed. In order to identify students with mental health needs and raise awareness among students, it can be also considered to administer a short and validated assessment in classes that enroll a large number of students (e.g., in a freshman seminar course), inform the entire class of how to interpret their scores on their own, and provide a list of available resources for those who may be interested. This would give students a chance to self-check their mental health without revealing their identities and seek help, if necessary.

We recommend that future researchers longitudinally track students and see whether the prevalence of mental health problems changes over time. Longitudinal studies are generally scarce in student mental health literature, but the timing of assessment can influence mental health symptoms reported (Huckins et al., 2020 ). The survey for our study was sent out right after the university of this study was closed due to the pandemic. It is possible that students may adjust to the outbreak over time and feel better, or that their stress may add up as the disease progresses. Tracking students over time can illustrate whether and how their mental health changes, especially depending on the way the pandemic unfolds combined with the cycle of an academic year. Secondly, there should be more studies that evaluate the effect of an intervention program on student mental health. Hunt and Eisenberg ( 2010 ) point out that little has been known about the efficacy of intervention programs while almost every higher education institution offers multiple mental health resources and counseling programs. During this pandemic, it can be a unique opportunity to implement virtual mental health interventions and evaluate their efficacy. Future research on virtual counseling and mental health interventions would guide practices to accommodate mental health needs for students who exclusively take online courses or part-time students who spend most of their time off campus. Lastly, we recommend future research investigate the extent of mental health service utilization among students with mental health needs. Existing surveys and studies on this topic usually rely on responses from those who visit a counseling center or students who respond to their surveys. Neither of these groups accurately represents those who are in need of professional help because there may be a number of students who are not aware of their mental health issues or do not want to reveal it. An effective treatment should first start with identifying those in need.

Our study highlights that college students are stressed, anxious, and depressed in the wake of COVID-19. Although college students have constantly reported mental health issues (e.g., American College Health Association, 2020 ), it is remarkable to note that the broad spectrum of COVID-19-related challenges may mitigate the overall quality of their psychological wellbeing. This is particularly the case for at-risk students (rural, international, low-income, and low-achieving students) who have already faced multiple challenges. We also present that a majority of students with mental health needs have never utilized on- and off-campus services possibly due to the limited access or potential stigma associated with mental health care. Systematic efforts with policy makers and practitioners are requested in this research to overcome the potential barriers. All these findings, based on the clinical assessment of student mental health during the early phase of the pandemic, will benefit scholars and practitioners alike. As many colleges and universities across the country have re-opened their campus for the 2020–2021 academic year, students, especially those who take in-person classes, would be concerned about the disease and continuing their study in this unprecedented time. On top of protecting students from the disease by promoting wearing masks and social distancing, it is imperative to pay attention to their mental health and make sure that they feel safe and healthy. To this end, higher education institutions should proactively reach out to all student populations, identify students at risk of mental health issues, and provide accessible and affordable care.

Biographies

is Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Kentucky. She studies higher education policy, program, and practice and their effects on student success.

is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Strategic Communication at the University of Kentucky. She earned her Ph.D. in Media and Information Studies at Michigan State University. Her research interests include prosocial campaigns, consumer wellbeing, and civic engagement.

is an associate professor in the Division of Biomedical Informatics in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Kim’s current research includes: consumer health informatics, personal health information management, and health information seeking behaviors. She uses clinical natural language professing techniques and survey methodologies to better understand patients’ health knowledge and their health information uses and behaviors.

Author’s Contribution

The order of the authors in the title page reflects the share of each author’s contribution to the manuscript.

Data Availability

Code availability, declarations.

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

All authors agree to publish this paper.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Contributor Information

Jungmin Lee, Email: [email protected] .

Hyun Ju Jeong, Email: [email protected] .

Sujin Kim, Email: ude.yku@miknijus .

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