Advertisement

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. Barker
  • Andrea L. Howard
  • Rosanne Villemaire-Krajden
  • Nancy L. Galambos
Empirical Research

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Depressive symptoms Academic stress University students Longitudinal 

Notes

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.

Funding

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.

References

  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Alfred-Liro, C., & Sigelman, C. K. (1998). Sex differences in self-concept and symptoms of depression during the transition to college. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 219–244.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021667813858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American College Health Association. (2016). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Canadian Reference Group Executive Summary. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association.Google Scholar
  4. Andresen, E. M., Malmgren, J. A., Carter, W. B., & Patrick, D. L. (1994). Screening for depression in well older adults: Evaluation of a short form of the CES-D. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 10, 77–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrews, B., & Wilding, J. M. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life-stress and achievement in students. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 509–521.  https://doi.org/10.1348/0007126042369802.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Asparouhov, T., & Muthén, B. (2010). Weighted least squares estimation with missing data. Mplus Technical Appendix, 2010, 1–10.Google Scholar
  7. Barker, E. T., Howard, A. L., Galambos, N. L., & Wrosch, C. (2016). Tracking affect and academic success across university: Happy students benefit from bouts of negative mood. Developmental Psychology, 52, 2022–2030.  https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000231.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Manual for the Beck Depression Inventory-II. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  9. Bouteyre, E., Maurel, M., & Bernaud, J.-L. (2006). Daily hassles and depressive symptoms among first year psychology students in France: The role of coping and social support. Stress and Health, 23, 93–99.  https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor (2014). College Enrollment and Work Activity of2013 High School Graduates. Economic News Release. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm.
  11. Canadian Association of College & University Student Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association. (2013). Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach. Vancouver, BC: Author.Google Scholar
  12. Chambel, M. J., & Curral, L. (2005). Stress in academic life: Work characteristics as predictors of student well-being and performance. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54, 135–147.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2005.00200.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, S., Kamark, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2136404.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Compas, B. E. (2004). Processes of risk and resilience during adolescence: Linking context and individuals. In R. M. Lerner, & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescence (2nd ed., pp. 263–296). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  15. Cooke, R., Bewick, B. M., Barkham, M., Bradley, M., & Audin, K. (2006). Measuring, monitoring and managing the psychological well-being of first year university students. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 34, 505–517.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03069880600942624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2011). The disaggregation of within-person and between-person effects in longitudinal models of change. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 583–619.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Curran, P. J., Lee, T., Howard, A. L., Lane, S., & MacCallum, R. (2012). Disaggregating within-person and between-person effects in multilevel and structural equation growth models. In J. R. Harring, & G. R. Hancock (Eds.), CILVR series on latent variable methodology. Advances in longitudinal methods in the social and behavioral sciences (pp. 217–253). Charlotte, NC: IAP Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Eisenberg, D., Gollust, S. E., Golberstein, E., & Hefner, J. L. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among university students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77, 534–542.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0002-9432.77.4.534.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Enders, C. K., Mistler, S. A., & Keller, B. T. (2016). Multilevel multiple imputation: A review and evaluation of joint modeling and chained equations imputation. Psychological Methods, 21, 222–240.  https://doi.org/10.1037/met0000063.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Fisher, S., & Hood, B. (1987). The stress of the transition to university: A longitudinal study of psychological disturbance and vulnerability to homesickness. British Journal of Psychology, 78, 425–441.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1987.tb02260.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fergusson, D. M., Boden, J. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2007). Recurrence of major depression in adolescence and early adulthood, and later mental health, educational and economic outcomes. British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 335–342.  https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.107.036079.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Furr, S. R., Westefeld, J. S., McConnell, G. N., & Jenkins, J. M. (2001). Suicide and depression among college students: A decade later. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 97–100.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.32.1.97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Galambos, N. L., Barker, E. T., & Krahn, H. J. (2006). Depression, self-esteem, and anger in emerging adulthood: Seven-year trajectories. Developmental Psychology, 42, 350–365.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.42.2.350.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Galarneau, D., Marissette, R., & Usalcas, J. (2013). What has changed for young people in Canada? In Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11847-eng.htm.
  25. Goffin, P. (2017). ‘We’re not a treatment facility’: The struggle for campuses to provide students mental health care. The Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/08/13/were-not-a-treatment-facility-the-struggle-for-campuses-to-provide-students-mental-health-care.html.
  26. Gosling, S. D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six pre-conceptions about internet questionnaires. American Psychologist, 59, 93–104.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.59.2.93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Haldorsen, H., Bak, N. H., Dissing, A., & Petersson, B. (2014). Stress and symptoms of depression among medical students at the University of Copenhagen. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 42, 89–95.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494813503055.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Hammen, C. (2005). Stress and depression. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 293–319.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Harmon-Jones, E., Gable, P. A., & Price, T. F. (2013). Does negative affect always narrow and positive affect always broaden the mind? Considering the influence of motivational intensity on cognitive scope. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 301–307.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721413481353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hoffman, L., & Stawski, R. S. (2009). Persons as contexts: Evaluating between-person and within-person effects in longitudinal analysis. Research in Human Development, 6, 97–120.  https://doi.org/10.1080/15427600902911189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Howard, A. L. (2015). Leveraging time-varying covariates to test within- and between-person effects and interactions in the multilevel linear model. Emerging Adulthood, 3, 400–412.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696815592726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howard, A. L., Galambos, N. L., & Krahn, H. J. (2010). Paths to success in young adulthood from mental health and life transitions in emerging adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 538–546.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025410365803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ibrahim, A. K., Kelly, S. J., Adams, C. E., & Glazebrook, C. (2013). A systematic review of studies of depression prevalence in university students. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47, 391–400.  https://doi.org/10.1037/t06165-000.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Kendler, K. S., Thornton, L. M., & Gardner, C. O. (2001). Genetic risk, number of previous depressive episodes, and stressful life events in predicting onset of major depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 582–586.  https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.4.582.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Lunau, K. (2012). Campus crisis: the broken generation. Why so many of our best and brightest students report feeling hopeless, depressed, even suicidal. McLean’s Magazine. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-broken-generation/.
  37. Maroco, J., & Campos, J. A. D. B. (2012). Defining the student burnout construct: A structural analysis from three burnout inventories. Psychological Reports, 111, 814–830.  https://doi.org/10.2466/14.10.20.PR0.111.6.814-830.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. McEwen, B. S. (2003). Mood disorders and allostatic load. Biological Psychiatry, 54, 200–207.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Mikolajczyk, R.T., Maxwell, A.E., Naydenova, V., Meier, S., & El Ansari, W. (2008). Depressive symptoms and perceived burdens related to being a student: Survey in three European countries. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 4.  https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-0179-4-19.
  40. Montgomery, M. J., & Côté, J. E. (2003). College as a transition to adulthood. In G. R. Adams & M. D. Berzonsky (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of adolescence (pp. 149–172). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  41. Newcomb-Anjo, S., Villemaire-Krajden, R., Takefman, K., & Barker, E. T. (2017). The unique associations of university experiences with depressive symptoms in emerging adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 5, 75–80.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696816657233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2007). The optimum level of well-being: Can people be too happy. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 346–360.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00048.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Othieno, C. J., Okoth, R. O., Peltzer, K., Pengpid, S., & Malla, L. O. (2014). Depression among university students in Kenya: Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates. Journal of Affective Disorders, 165, 120–125.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2014.04.070.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B., & Alisat, S. (2004). Bridging troubled waters: Helping students make the transition from high school to university. Guidance and Counselling, 9, 184–190.Google Scholar
  45. Pearson, C., Janz, T., & Ali, J. (2013). Mental and substance use disorders in Canada. In Health at a Glance, Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm.
  46. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale or research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Radloff, L. S. (1991). The use of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale in adolescents and young adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20, 149–166.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01537606.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., Congdon, R. T., & Du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International Inc.Google Scholar
  49. Rohde, P., Lewinsohn, P. M., Klein, D. N., Seeley, J. R., & Gau, J. M. (2012). Key characteristics of major depressive disorder occurring in childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 41–53.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702612457599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Salmela-Aro, K., Kiuru, N., Pietikäinen, M., & Jokela, J. (2008). Does school matter? The role of school context in adolescents’ school-related burnout. European Psychologist, 13, 12–23.  https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040.13.1.12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Santor, D. A., Zuroff, D. C., Ramsay, J. O., Cervantes, P., & Palacios, J. (1995). Examining scale discriminability in the BDI and CES-D as a function of depressive severity. Psychological Assessment, 7, 131–139.  https://doi.org/10.1037/1040-3590.7.2.131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sha, T., & Xia, L. (2004). Mediation effect of cognitive appraisal orientation on the relationship between stress and negative feelings in university students. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 18, 107–110.Google Scholar
  53. Shamsuddin, K., Fadzil, F., Wan Ismail, W. S., Shah, S. A., Omar, K., Muhammad, N. A., Jaffar, A., Ismail, A., & Mahadevan, R. (2013). Correlates of depression, anxiety and stress among Malaysian university students. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 6, 318–323.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2013.01.014.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Schulenberg, J. E., & Zarrett, N. R. (2006). Mental health during emerging adulthood: Continuity and discontinuity in courses, causes, and functions. In J. J. Arnett & J. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century (pp. 135–72). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Twenge, J. M., Gentile, B., DeWall, C. N., Ma, D., Lacefield, K., & Schurtz, D. R. (2010). Birth cohort increases in psychopathology among young Americans, 1938–2007: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the MMPI. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 145–154.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2009.10.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Wrosch, C., & Miller, G. E. (2009). Depressive symptoms can be useful: Self-regulatory and emotional benefits of dysphoric mood in adolescence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1181–1190.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015172.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin T. Barker
    • 1
  • 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

Personalised recommendations