A new study by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers highlights one of the consequences of these realities: Graduate students are disproportionately likely to struggle with mental-health issues. The researchers surveyed roughly 500 economics Ph.D. candidates at eight elite universities, and found that 18 percent of them experienced moderate or severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. That’s more than three times the national average, according to the study. Roughly one in 10 students in the Harvard survey also reported having suicidal thoughts on at least several days within the prior two weeks. (Other recent studies have had similar findings, including one published earlier this year that described graduate-student mental health as a “crisis.”)
The study’s results, which also include survey responses from nearly 200 faculty members, indicate that many Ph.D. students’ mental-health troubles are exacerbated, if not caused, by their graduate-education experiences. Roughly half of the respondents in the Harvard study with anxiety and/or depression had been diagnosed sometime after starting their graduate studies. And students toward the end of their programs were far more likely than those who were just embarking on their graduate journeys to report severe symptoms of anxiety or depression.