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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2013 Jun;48(6):935-44. doi: 10.1007/s00127-012-0574-x. Epub 2012 Sep 4.

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

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.



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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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