Risk factors for mental disorder among university students in Australia: findings from a web-based cross-sectional survey

  • David Said
  • Kypros KypriEmail author
  • Jenny Bowman
Original Paper



To identify variables associated with common mental disorders in an Australian university population.


We invited all Australia-based students from a large public university (N = 24,209) to participate in a web-based student mental health survey. Outcome measures included the patient health questionnaire depression, anxiety, and eating disorders modules, and the alcohol use disorders identification test. Explanatory variables of interest included gender, age, year of study, degree type, financial means, parental education, domestic/international status, and sexual orientation. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to estimate independent associations with the four outcomes.


Complete responses were received from 6,044 students (25 %). Proportions reporting depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and harmful drinking were 8, 13, 14, and 8 %, respectively, while 30 % had at least one of these disorders. The groups with the highest rates of disorder were women, 25–34-year-olds, students on low income, and homosexual or bisexual students. Parental education was not associated with disorder, nor was international/domestic status.


This is the first study examining mental disorders in a population-based sample of university students in Australia. Given increasing student numbers and participation of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, policy is urgently needed to promote better mental health in this population, to routinely identify vulnerable students, and to intervene early. Groups in particular need are women, students on low incomes, and homosexual or bisexual students.


University Students Mental health Depression Alcohol Disorder 



David Said received a small grant from the School of Psychology, University of Newcastle to conduct this study. Kypros Kypri is funded via a National Health & Medical Research Council Career Development Award.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The protocol for the research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee the University of Newcastle, approval no: H-2009-0366. The research has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. All subjects provided informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study and participant anonymity has been preserved.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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