Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1252–1266 | Cite as

The Rise and Fall of Depressive Symptoms and Academic Stress in Two Samples of University Students

  • Erin T. BarkerEmail author
  • Andrea L. Howard
  • Rosanne Villemaire-Krajden
  • Nancy L. Galambos
Empirical Research


Self-reported depressive experiences are common among university students. However, most studies assessing depression in university students are cross-sectional, limiting our understanding of when in the academic year risk for depression is greatest and when interventions may be most needed. We examined within-person change in depressive symptoms from September to April. Study 1 (N = 198; 57% female; 72% white; Mage = 18.4): Depressive symptoms rose from September, peaked in December, and fell across the second semester. The rise in depressive symptoms was associated with higher perceived stress in December. Study 2 (N = 267; 78.7% female; 67.87% white; Mage = 21.25): Depressive symptoms peaked in December and covaried within persons with perceived stress and academic demands. The results have implications for understanding when and for whom there is increased risk for depressive experiences among university students.


Depressive symptoms Academic stress University students Longitudinal 


Authors’ Contributions

All authors contributed to the development of the study concept. Study 1 design and data collection were the responsibility of N.L.G., A.L.H., and E.T.B. Study 2 design and data collection were the responsibility of E.T.B., A.L.H., and R.V.K. E.T.B. and A.L.H. performed the data analyses and drafted the Methods and Results sections. E.T.B. wrote the Introduction and Discussion sections. All co-authors provided critical revisions and approved the final version of the manuscript.


Study 1 was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada operating grant awarded to N.L.G. and J.L.M. Study 2 was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant awarded to E.T.B. and A.L.H.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

These studies were conducted in compliance with ethical standards outlined by the Government of Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Both studies were approved by their respective university research ethics review committees in accordance with the Government of Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was received from all participants who participated at each wave of measurement as per the Government of Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin T. Barker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea L. Howard
    • 2
  • Rosanne Villemaire-Krajden
    • 1
  • Nancy L. Galambos
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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