Depression, anxiety and stress in different subgroups of first-year university students from 4-year cohort data

Kin Cheung (Corresponding Author), Kin Yuen Tam, Hilda Tsang, Weiwei Zhang, Siu Wai Lit

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Limited studies have been conducted to investigate the mental health status of subgroups of university students. This study hypothesized that there would be differences among student subgroups in the prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress; and association of age, gender, academic performance and mental health status. Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey study. Since 2014, first-year university students in a university in Hong Kong were invited to complete the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) before the commencement of their study. These DASS data were then merged with objectively measured data from university records. 9,479 students completed the DASS survey, this being 56.5% of the total student population in the records. Kruskal- Wallis Tests were applied to compare the differences among student subgroups. Results: Community college transfer (CCT) students were the highest-risk group for depression, anxiety and stress, and their study load was the highest as well. Unexpectedly, mainstream students ranked after the CCT students in the prevalence and levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Student athletes had the highest prevalence of depression. Although there were declining trends for depression, anxiety and stress, it was only a slight drop. Overall, age, gender, study load and academic performance were associated with the mental health profile (p<0.05). Limitations: After admission, students’ mental health conditions could have changed. Further studies are needed to measure mental health during their study. Conclusions: Mental health problems were not distributed evenly across different student subgroups, psychological support should be designed according to the needs of each student subgroup.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-314
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2020


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