Seven in 10 students disclosing mental health condition is female

Number of undergraduates disclosing mental health condition has more than doubled in four years, Advance HE data show

October 9, 2019
Source: iStock

The true number of students suffering a mental health problem is still likely being underestimated even though the number of UK undergraduates disclosing an issue has doubled in four years, it has been suggested.

Data published in the latest Advance HE statistical report on equality in higher education show that the rate at which students are admitting to a mental health issue is continuing to rise.

In 2017-18, 59,010 students on a bachelor’s course said they had a mental health condition, up from just 23,460 in 2013-14, according to figures provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The latest report says that between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the proportion of all students with a disability who said they had a mental health condition increased by 6.4 percentage points to 23.9 per cent. For undergraduates, that share was a quarter.

There is also a striking gender split: 72 per cent of students disclosing a mental health condition are female, and that gap has widened since 2013-14, when 68 per cent were female.

Nicola Byrom, a lecturer in psychology at King’s College London who is leading a new national research network on student mental health, and is also the founder of the charity Student Minds, said that the rising numbers admitting a problem was a “good thing” and “indicative of the students who need support asking for this”.

But she added that the data still showed that less than 4 per cent of all students were disclosing a mental health problem.

This was despite the latest nationwide survey on mental illness in England – the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey – suggesting that about one in four women aged 16 to 24 and one in 10 men in the same age group “have experienced symptoms of a common mental health disorder in the last week”.

“We would expect that considerably fewer people have a long-term mental health condition than the numbers identifying symptoms in the last week,” Dr Byrom said. “However, the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey data suggest we should not be surprised if the numbers of students disclosing mental health conditions was much higher than it is currently.”

She added that it was “vital” that students with mental health problems “feel confident disclosing these to the university as this ensures that the best support is put in place to help students study”.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Gender split as student mental ill health rises

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