WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: Prevalence and Distribution of Mental Disorders

Randy P. Auerbach, Phillipe Mortier, Ronny Bruffaerts, Jordi Alonso, Corina Benjet, Pim Cuijpers, Koen Demyttenaere, David D. Ebert, Jennifer Greif Green, Penelope Hasking, EK Murray, Matthew Nock , Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Nancy A. Sampson, Dan J. Stein, Gemma Vilagut, Alan M Zaslavsky, Ronald C. Kessler

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Increasingly, colleges across the world are contending with rising rates of mental disorders, and in many cases, the demand for services on campus far exceeds the available resources. The present study reports initial results from the first stage of the WHO World Mental Health International College Student project, in which a series of surveys in 19 colleges across eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern-Ireland, South-Africa, Spain, UnitedStates) were carried out with the aim of estimating prevalence and basic socio-demographic correlates of common mental disorders among first-year college students. Web-based self-report questionnaires administered to incoming first-year students (45.5% pooled response rate) screened for six common lifetime and 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders: major depression,mania/hypomania, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, alcohol use disorder, and substance use disorder. We focus on the 13,984 respondents who were full-time students: 35% of whom screened positive for at least one of the common lifetime disorders assessed and 31%screened positive for at least one 12-month disorder. Syndromes typically had onsets in early middle adolescence and persisted into the year of the survey. Although relatively modest, the strongest correlates of screening positive were older age, female sex, unmarried-deceased parents, no religious affiliation, non-heterosexual identification and behavior, low secondary school ranking, and extrinsic motivation for college enrollment. The weakness of these associations means that the syndromes considered are widely distributed with respect to these variables in the student population. Although the extent to which cost-effective treatment would reduce these risks is unclear, the high level of need for mental health services implied by these results represents a major challenge to institutions of higher education and governments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-638
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date13 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Oct 2018


  • Mental Disorders
  • 12-Month Prevalence
  • Lifetime Prevalence
  • College


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