Study Looks at Mental Disorders in College-Age Adults


This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A new study in the United States says mental disorders appear to be common in college-age adults, but most do not seek treatment.

Researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University in New York City did the study. It appears this month in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Young people
The study compared the mental health of college students to that of non-students the same age. About half of Americans age eighteen to twenty-four attend college.

The information used in the study came from five thousand college-age men and women. They were questioned for a national survey between two thousand one and two thousand two. About two thousand of them were college students.

The questioners were not doctors but trained interviewers. The questions were based on symptoms listed in a book widely used by doctors to identify mental disorders.

The researchers found that twenty percent of college students abused alcohol -- the most common disorder in that group. Personality disorders, like obsessive compulsive disorder, came next. The study says almost eighteen percent of college students appeared to have a personality disorder. That was true of about twenty-two percent of those not in college.

The college students were also less likely to have a drug-use disorder, nicotine dependence or bipolar disorder. And they were less likely to have used tobacco. But their risk of alcohol disorders was greater.

The National Institutes of Health and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention helped pay for the study.

Over all, the study found that almost half of all the college-age individuals showed signs of at least one psychiatric disorder. The researchers say this age group may be especially sensitive to disorders because of the great pressures of entering adulthood. Yet they say only one杅ourth sought treatment.

Joseph Glenmullen is a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School who believes that psychiatric medications are overused. He told the Bloomberg news agency that the finding of a psychiatric disorder in about half of those studied "seems extraordinarily high."

He says it may represent what he called "a watering down of the diagnostic criteria such that they capture more people with milder symptoms.'' What he is saying is that more people may be told they have a mental disorder because the definitions have been widened.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. I'm Steve Ember.