Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues

Mental health problems can affect many areas of students’ lives, reducing their quality of life, academic achievement, physical health, and satisfaction with the college experience, and negatively impacting relationships with friends and family members. These issues can also have long-term consequences for students, affecting their future employment, earning potential, and overall health.1

Consequences for the Student

Mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance.Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association.2 Depression has also been linked to dropping out of school.2

Many college students report that mental health difficulties interfere with their studies. On the American College Health Association 2015 survey, college students identified the following mental health issues as negatively impacting their academic performance within the last 12 months:3

  • Stress (30% of students)
  • Anxiety (22%)
  • Sleep difficulties (20%)
  • Depression (14%)

Consequences for Others

  • Peers, family members, faculty, and staff may be personally affected out of concern for these students.
  • Depression and anxiety can have harmful effects on relationships and work productivity.
  • Suicide and suicidal thoughts can affect the larger campus community.
  • Roommates, peers, faculty, and staff also experience profound grief over student suicides and suicidal behavior.

Consequences for Campuses

  • Campuses feel the burden when students with mental health difficulties do poorly on course work and drop out of school.
  • Colleges and universities must be prepared to address the psychological impact of suicides on other students, as well as on teachers and staff.4
  • Poor student retention can mean losses in tuition, fees, and alumni donations.

Consequences for Communities and the Larger Society

  • The community is negatively affected when students are unable to finish their degrees and contribute valuable skills in a competitive job market.
  • One study found that five percent of students do not finish their education due to psychiatric disorders and estimated that 4.29 million people would have graduated from college had they not been experiencing such disorders.5


  1. Eisenberg, D., Gollust, S. E., Golberstein, E., & Hefner, J. L. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among university students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(4), 534–542.
  2. Eisenberg, D., Downs, M., & Golberstein, S. (2009). Stigma and help-seeking for mental health among college students. Medical Care Research and Review66(5), 522–541.
  3. American College Health Association. (2015). National College Health Assessment II: Spring 2015 reference group executive summary. Hanover, MD: Author. Retrieved from
  4. Meilman, P. W., & Hall, T. M. (2006). Aftermath of tragic events: The development and use of community support meetings on a university campus. Journal of American College Health54(6), 382–384.
  5. Kessler, R. C., Foster, C. L., Saunders, W. B., & Stang, P. E. (1995). Social consequences of psychiatric disorders, I: Educational attainment. American Journal of Psychiatry152(7), 1026–1032.