Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) The Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms Among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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372P (see Poster Gallery) The Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms Among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kareen Tonsing, PhD, Faculty Member, Oakland University, Rochester, MI
Jenny Tonsing, PhD, Faculty Member, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Background and Purpose: Over the past decades, a growing body of research has observed that many university students experience psychological discomforts such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Mental health problems among college students are of concern because, if left untreated, they can adversely impact the individuals’ psychological and physical health and well-being. Early detection and timely treatment may reduce the mental health burden among university populations and help improve students’ quality of life and academic and health outcomes. The current study investigates the prevalence of depressive symptoms and the factors impacting their mental health among undergraduate university students from two large universities in the United States.

Methods: A self-administered paper questionnaire was completed by a cross-section of 251 undergraduate students (Mean age = 23.10, SD=6.23). The majority self-identified as white/Caucasian (79.7%), followed by Black/African American (12%) and another ethnicity (8.3%). About 48.2% were in their senior year of study. Data collected included demographic characteristics, the measures of the depression subscale of the DASS-21 (DASS-D), the perceived stress scale, the Brief COPE Inventory, and the perceived social support scale. Based on the original cut-off scores, the DASS-D scores were dichotomized as “no/mild depressive symptoms” (score 0-6) and “moderate/severe depressive symptoms” (score 7-21). Logistic regression was performed to estimate the effect of perceived stress, coping styles, and perceived social support on the risk of depression symptoms. Data were analyzed with SPSS 27.

Results: The prevalence of moderate to severe depressive symptoms was 41%. Results of t-tests showed a significant mean difference between those with and without depressive symptoms on perceived stress, t (1,249) = 9.43, p = <.001, maladaptive coping, t (1, 249) = 8.78, p = <.001, and perceived social support, t (1, 249) = 4.07, p = .001. Respondents in the moderate to severe depressive group reported higher mean scores in perceived stress and maladaptive coping and lower mean scores in perceived social support. Logistic regression analysis with depression scores as a binary outcome variable and four continuous explanatory variables: perceived stress, adaptive coping, maladaptive coping, and perceived social support, adjusting for sex and relationship status confirmed that perceived stress (OR 3.54; CI 95% 1.82-6.87) and maladaptive coping (OR 1.25; CI 95% 1.14-1.37) were significantly associated with higher odds of experiencing depressive symptoms and perceived social support (OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.92-1.00) with lower odds of depressive symptoms. The model explained between 30.6% (Cox & Snell R square) and 41.2% (Nagelkerke R squared) of the variance in depressive symptoms and correctly classified 76.5% of cases.

Conclusions and Implications: Most students report experiencing depressive symptoms, with perceived stress emerging as the strongest predictor. Findings highlight the need for psychological empowerment strategies in students to manage various stressors more effectively and the importance of enhancing social support as a valuable resource for university students.