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High rates of depression and suicidal thoughts among students accessing campus health care (USA)

January 27, 2011

High rates of depression and suicidal thinking among students in a campus health clinic setting identify an important site for screening and intervention, according to a recently published study. Researchers found that the frequency of depression among campus health clinic users was nearly twice as high as rates reported among general campus students.

The frequency of depression among 1622 post-secondary students accessing four campus health clinics in the United States and Canada was similar for men (25 percent) and women (26 percent). Suicidal thoughts were higher among male students (13 percent) than female (10 percent). The data was collected from a voluntary health screening survey for students with non-urgent and primary care appointments. The response rate was very high, with an average of over 90 percent of students completing the questionnaire. Students who reported emotional abuse, unwanted sexual encounters and tobacco use were associated with screening positive for depression. Students who reported exercising during the week were less likely to screen positive for depression.

With these considerably high rates of depression (one in four) and suicidal thinking (one in ten) among those accessing campus health clinics, the authors recommend that medical providers engage in screening for depression as part of routine care. The authors also recommend that those who screen positive should also be screened for associated health issues such as victimization or violence. As well, exercise could be promoted as it appears to be a protective factor against depression in this group.

See “Depression and Suicide Ideation among Students Accessing Campus Health Care,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (January 2011; 8[1]: 101-107), available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com.

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