College Student Mental Health Statistics – 2024

January 23, 2024

college student mental health statistics

Being a college student isn’t easy. Though college can be a time of learning, excitement, and self-discovery, for many, it is also a time of stress and a variety of mental health challenges. Students’ schedules are often overloaded with difficult coursework while they also experience new relationships and financial pressures. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, college students have faced illness, loss, and general stress from navigating new forms of hybrid coursework. Research also shows that not all college students are at equal risk for having mental health issues. Due to a number of factors (including gender, racial, and economic disparities), the likelihood of facing mental issues while in college can be linked with identity. In this article, we’ve provided some information about common mental health issues among college students, including their statistics and supportive resources offered at many colleges and universities.

Content warning: this article contains information on a number of serious mental health issues, including eating disorders, depression, and suicidal ideation.

How Common are Mental Health Conditions in Colleges?

The American College Health Association (ACHA) published a 2022 study, which surveyed 54,000 undergraduate college students. These individuals were of different identities and backgrounds. According to the study, about 77% of students experienced some kind of psychological distress, either moderate or severe. 54% experienced loneliness, and 30% had exhibited suicidal behavior. Continue reading for more detailed information on specific mental health challenges, their statistics, and possible causes.

Common Mental Health Issues and Percentages on College Campuses

Below are definitions and statistics for some of the most common mental health issues in the ACHA survey.


Though anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations, anxiety disorder occurs when the reaction becomes disruptive, interfering with daily activities. There are a number of types of anxiety, including panic, social anxiety, and certain phobias. Anxiety can have physical symptoms (restlessness, mental tension, etc.). It can also have mental ones (lack of concentration and excessive worrying about everyday matters).

According to the ACHA report, 35% of student survey participants said they had been diagnosed with anxiety. About 77% of these students reported discussing their anxiety with a healthcare professional in the previous year.


The World Health Organization defines depression as “persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure from previously rewarding or enjoyable activities,” and globally, about 5% of adults suffer from depression.

According to the ACHA survey, the percentage of college students experiencing depression is much higher. 27% of participating college students reported having depression, and of those students, 78% reported discussing their depression with a mental health professional. Evidence also suggests that depression and anxiety can go hand-in-hand, since about 23% of survey participants reported experiencing both depression and anxiety.

College Students Mental Health Statistics (Continued)


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are often diagnosed in childhood, though they can also be diagnosed at any time in life. Symptoms include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that does not fit the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur without thought). ADD and ADHD are known to impact academic and professional achievement, and can also affect self-esteem and interpersonal relationships.

ADD and ADHD are relatively common among college students. According to the survey, 13% of college students experienced one of the two, and 72% of these students discussed the issue with a mental healthcare professional in the previous 12 months.

Stress and trauma related issues

This includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can develop after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. Causes can range from car accidents, to bullying, to war, to sexual assault. People with PTSD have disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic experience long after it has ended. This “stress” category also included acute stress disorder (a shorter-term condition after a traumatic event) and adjustment disorder (a stress reaction to a significant change in a person’s life).

About 8% of students participating in the survey had been diagnosed with one of these stress-related disorder. Of that percentage, about 74% had discussed their disorders with a health professional in the previous 12-months.

Eating disorders

Under this category, ACHA lists anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. According to Psychology Today, anorexia nervosa occurs when a person refuses to eat an adequate amount of food. People with this disorder often have distorted body images, viewing themselves as too “fat” or “bulky” no matter how much they weigh, and they tend to experience intense fear of gaining weight. Bulimia is characterized by purging after a large meal to rid oneself of extra calories. Binge eating disorder is characterized by consuming unusually large amounts of food without control, even when full, on a regular basis.

According to the ACHA survey, 7% of college students struggled with eating disorders. 56% of that percentage discussed their disorders with a mental health professional.

College Students Mental Health Statistics (Continued)


This disorder makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can negatively impact one’s energy level and mood during the day, and it can cause a variety of other health issues. While many adults experience short-term insomnia due to stress (this may go away after a few days or weeks), others experience chronic insomnia (which can last for 3-months or more).

In the ACHA survey, 7% of college students reported insomnia. 59% of these students reported discussing the issue with a healthcare professional.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves unwanted patterns of thoughts and fears known as “obsessions,” which can lead to repetitive behaviors, “compulsions.” These obsessions and compulsions can disrupt daily activities and cause distress.

About 6% of college students in the ACHA survey reported struggling with OCD, and of this group, 68% reported seeking professional help within the previous year.

Bipolar disorder

Those with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states called “mood episodes.” These episodes are categorized as manic/hypomanic (abnormally happy or irritable mood) and depressive (abnormally sad mood). People with bipolar disorder often experience periods of neutral moods as well.

According to the survey, 3% of students experienced bipolar disorder, and of that percentage. 77% reported discussing the issue with a mental healthcare professional.

Alcohol/drug abuse

This included alcohol and other drug-related abuse or addiction. According to the APA, substance use becomes categorized as abuse when it is “marked by recurrent social, occupational, legal, or interpersonal adverse consequences.” These can range from trouble with work or school, to problems with friendships or partnerships, to repeated arrests.

In the ACHA survey, about 1% of participants reported substance abuse, and only 46% of those who reported substance abuse also discussed their problems with a mental healthcare professional in the previous 12 months.

Possible Causes of Mental Health Issues

Though mental health issues may be caused by a variety of sources outside of the college setting (for example, ADHD might be diagnosed in early childhood and bipolar disorder can run in families), certain conditions of college campuses can cause or worsen mental health disorders. In the ACHA Spring 2022 survey, students were asked which challenges they faced in college, and listed below are some of their responses.

Academic pressure

The academic pressure of college can lead to a variety of mental health issues. In Spring 2022, 51% of ACHA survey participants reported experiencing academic challenges. 76% reported challenges with procrastination, and 12% reported challenges related to faculty.


New or changing relationships in college, whether friendships, intimate relationships, or roommate relationships, can also lead to stress for students. In the survey, 39% of participating students reported challenges with intimate relationships, 32% with roommates or housemates, and 25% with peers.

College Students Mental Health Statistics (Continued)

Harassment and discrimination

According to the ACHA survey, 12% of participants experienced sexual harassment, 11% experienced discrimination, and 17% experienced microaggressions. In addition, 7% of students experienced bullying, and 4% had issues with cyberbullying in particular.

Grief and loss

27% of survey participants reported experiencing the death of a close friend or family member while in college. Further, 40% reported challenges related to illness of someone close to them.


The ACHA survey tested for loneliness using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which ranks loneliness on a scale from 3 to 9. On this scale, 54% of college students scored positive for loneliness, with a score from 6-9.

Mental Health and Gender Disparity

Gender is an important factor in the ACHA survey. In each category of the report, it is listed which percentage of responders identified as cis men, cis women, and trans/gender non-conforming. For some categories, the results varied largely from one gender category to another. In most cases (with a few exceptions), the percentages were lowest among cis men, higher among cis women, and the highest among trans/gender non-confirming participants. This difference could point to gender inequality as well as particular challenges for transgender and other LGBTQIA+ students on college campuses (check out this 2022 report from the UCLA Williams Institute for further information on this gap). Below are the approximate percentages by gender in the mental health issues listed above:

  • ADD/ADHD: 12% cis men, 11% cis women, 30% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Anxiety: 18% cis men, 39% cis women, 62% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Alcohol/Drug Abuse: 1% cis men, 1% cis women, 3% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Bipolar: 1% cis men, 3% cis women, 7% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Depression: 14% cis men, 29% cis women, 58% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Eating Disorders: 1% cis men, 8% cis women, 15% trans/gender non-conforming
  • Insomnia: 4% cis men, 7% cis women, 16% gender non-conforming
  • OCD: 3% cis men, 7% cis women, 15% gender non-conforming
  • Stress/PTSD: 3% cis men, 8% cis women, 21% gender non-conforming

Mental Health Among Racial and Ethnic Groups

Though the ACHA report does not get into the details of racial/ethnic identity and mental health on college campuses, other studies have found that there are significant disparities when it comes to mental illness among racial and ethnic groups. A study by the Healthy Minds Network found that while mental health issues have increased for all racial and ethnic groups on college campuses between 2013 and 2021, American Indian and Alaskan Native Students faced the steepest increase in anxiety and depression.

In addition to diagnosis, there is also a disparity when it comes to who gets treated. According to a study by the Boston University School of Public Health, there are significantly more unmet mental health needs for students of color than for white students on college campuses. For example, among African American students with a mental health problem, only 21% had received a diagnosis. This is compared with 48% of white students in the study. While white students had the highest prevalence of receiving treatment for mental health problems (46%), Asian/Asian American students had the lowest (23%). A variety of factors could play a role in these gaps. These include disparity in access to mental healthcare, and cultural stigma when it comes to seeking mental health support.

Access to Mental Healthcare for College Students

According to the Penn State Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) 2021 Annual Report, college counselors often have over 100 students. Some even have as many as 300 students per counselor. This high number generally means less care for each student experiencing mental health concerns. However, an American Psychological Association (APA) article discusses how many schools are working to dedicate more resources to rapid access to mental healthcare. This means that students will be able to have walk-in evaluations and appointments instead of waiting weeks, or even months, for access to mental health resources.

Many colleges and universities also provide workshops on topics such as stress management, sleep schedules, and goal-setting. Peer counseling and group counseling is also often available to students struggling with issues such as loneliness and interpersonal conflict, as well as with specific issues such as eating disorders.

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Mental health support is also no longer limited to the counseling center. At many colleges and universities, faculty and staff members across campus are also being given tools to help with issues related to mental health by becoming trained as first responders. This includes Mental Health First Aid training and sexual harassment prevention trainings that address topics such as bystander intervention and options when reporting sexual violence.

College Students Mental Health Statistics Conclusion

We can see that mental health on college campuses is a cause for concern, and we have a long way to go when it comes to addressing it. On the other hand, new and improved mental health programs and resources on college campuses may provide hope. We hope that as more universities conduct research on student mental health (factoring in important information on disparities across gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity) and find more ways to offer resources, college students can increasingly access proper diagnoses and treatment for mental health issues.

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