Graduate Student Mental Health

Graduate student mental health remains a growing concern within higher education. Factors that may negatively impact graduate student mental health may further impact degree progress, scholarly output, and career decisions. Recent data highlights the growing prevalence and severity of mental health challenges for graduate students.1

In 2018, the following percentages of students reported experiencing the following within the last twelve months:1

  1. Felt things were hopeless – 46.1%
  2. Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do – 83%
  3. Felt exhausted (not from physical activity) – 82.5%
  4. Felt very lonely – 57.1%
  5. Felt very sad – 62.7%
  6. Felt so depressed that it was difficult to function – 36.9%
  7. Felt overwhelming anxiety – 60.4%
  8. Felt overwhelming anger – 35.4%
  9. Seriously considered suicide – 6.0%
  10. Intentionally cut, burned, bruised, or otherwise injured yourself – 3.2%
  11. Attempted suicide – 0.8%

The following percentage of students reported that within the last twelve months the following had been traumatic or very difficult to handle:1

  1. Academics – 43.3%
  2. Career-related issue – 33.4%
  3. Finances – 29.6%
  4. Sleep – 27%
  5. Intimate relationships – 26.8%

Marginalized populations experience mental health challenges and mental illness at disparately high levels when compared with cis, white, male students. An international survey of graduate students found that transgender, gender-nonconforming, and female graduate students are “significantly more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their male graduate student counterparts.”2 Cisgender LGBQ undergraduate students experience higher levels of depression and suicidal ideation than their heterosexual, cisgender peers.3

Unfortunately, data specific to cisgender LGBTQ graduate student mental health is lacking. Students of color also experience higher prevalence of mental health challenges than their white peers. Data specific to graduate student populations is lacking, however, national data of undergraduate and graduate students shows that Asian, Black, and multi-racial students experience higher levels of anxiety and depression.4

  1. National College Health Assessment II Fall 2018 Graduate student executive summary report. Retrieved from
  2. Woodford, M. R., Weber, G., Nicolazzo, Z., Hunt, R., Kulick, A., Coleman, T., … Renn, K. A. (2018). Depression and attempted suicide among LGBTQ college students: Fostering resilience to the effects of heterosexism and cisgenderism on campus. Journal of College Student Development, 59(4), 421–438.
  3. Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Beltran Gastellum, J., Todd Weiss, L., Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36(3), 282-284
  4. Eisenberg, D., Hunt, J., & Speer, N. (2013). Mental health in American colleges and universities: variation across student subgroups and across campuses. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201(1), 60–67.