Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 3545–3557 | Cite as

The Prevalence and Associated Factors of Depression, Anxiety and Stress of First Year Undergraduate Students in a Public Higher Learning Institution in Malaysia

  • Nurul Syafika Amir Hamzah
  • Nik Daliana Nik FaridEmail author
  • Abqariyah Yahya
  • Caroline Chin
  • Tin Tin Su
  • Sanjay Rampal Lekhraj Rampal
  • Maznah Dahlui
Original Paper



While university life is characterized by the pursuit of greater educational opportunities and employment prospects, it can also be a trigger of mental health problems. This study aims to: (a) measure the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress among first-year undergraduate students in the University of Malaya, and; (b) determine the associated factors of depression, anxiety, and stress.


This cross-sectional study consisted of two phases: survey administration and physical assessment. In the first phase, data were collected electronically using a mobile application during the orientation week. The Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) questionnaire was employed to assess respondents’ mental health status. In the second phase, anthropometric measurements which included height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure were taken.


Of 1602 students, the prevalence of moderate to extremely severe depression was 21% (n = 341), anxiety 50% (n = 793), and stress 12% (n = 197). Findings showed that students who lived with non-family members were more likely to develop depression (OR: 1.846, 95% CI: 1.266–2.693), anxiety (OR: 1.529, 95% CI: 1.024–2.284), and stress (OR: 1.655, 95% CI: 1.110–2.468). Those with previous medical history were more likely to have anxiety (OR: 1.697, 95% CI: 1.097–2.626). Interestingly, students from the Southern region (OR: 0.667, 95% CI: 0.468–0.950) and from Sabah and Sarawak (OR: 0.503, 95% CI: 0.281–0.900) were less likely to report depression.


Future intervention programs should follow the socio-ecological model while addressing university students’ mental health needs.


Depression Anxiety Stress University students Malaysia 



We would like to thank our respondents, the University of Malaya Student Affairs Division and University of Malaya Admissions and Records Section for their support. We thank the research team members for their input and contribution in data collection.

Author Contributions

N.S.: analyzed the data, interpreted the results and drafted the paper; N.D.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final version of the manuscript; A.Y.: assisted with data analyses and aided in writing and editing; C.C.: organized the data collection process and aided in writing and editing; T.S.: contributed to research methodology, questionnaire development and editing; S.R.: collaborated on the study design and assisted in editing the paper; M.D.: designed and executed the study, collaborated in writing and editing.


The study was funded by Ecological Approach towards Healthy Campus at University of Malaya Grant (RU009-2014).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures in this study were performed in accordance with ethical standards, and ethical approval was obtained prior to study. The study was approved by the University of Malaya Medical Centre medical review board (MECID No: 20156-1401).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  2. 2.Medical Education and Research Development Unit (MERDU), Faculty of MedicineUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  3. 3.Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine & Health SciencesMonash University MalaysiaSubang JayaMalaysia

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