But according to new research published yesterday, fewer than a quarter of those young adults who do have mental concerns seek treatment for them.
And to check on whether such mental health concerns might be triggered by attending college or not, the researchers compared those attending and not attending college and found similar rates of psychiatric illnesses among the two groups. This suggests that the transition from adolescence to adulthood can trigger the onset of a mental health problem regardless of setting.
The researchers analyzed data from over 5,000 young adults aged 19 to 25 years old from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Carlos Blanco, M.D., Ph.D., of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and his colleagues analyzed the data to compare the mental health of those enrolled in college at least part-time with those not attending college during the previous year.
The researchers interviewed and assessed for psychiatric disorders those attending (2,188) or not attending (2,904) college during the previous year.
A total of 45.8 percent of college students and 47.7 percent of young adults not in college met the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder.
The most common disorders in college students were alcohol use disorders (20.4 percent) and personality disorders (17.7 percent), whereas those not in college most frequently met criteria for personality disorders (21.6 percent) and nicotine dependence (20.7 percent).
College students were less likely to have a diagnosis of drug use disorder, nicotine dependence or bipolar disorder and were less likely to have used tobacco. However, their risk of alcohol use disorders was significantly greater.
Treatment rates were low for all psychiatric disorders. College students were significantly less likely to receive treatment for alcohol or drug use disorders than those not in college.
“In view of the high prevalence and low rate of treatment of alcohol use disorders in college students, greater efforts to implement screening and intervention programs on college and university campuses are warranted,” the authors write. “The centralized delivery of campus student health services might offer an advantageous structure for carrying out such screening and interventions.”
Overall, the authors note, the rate of psychiatric disorders is high among young adults, who are at a vulnerable stage of development.
“The vast majority of disorders in this population can be effectively treated with evidence-based psychosocial and pharmacological approaches,” they conclude.
“Early treatment could reduce the persistence of these disorders and their associated functional impairment, loss of productivity and increased health care costs. As these young people represent our nation’s future, urgent action is needed to increase detection and treatment of psychiatric disorders among college students and their non–college-attending peers.”
The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Source: Archives of General Psychiatry