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Psych Congress  

The Association Between Depression Severity and Social Stigma in Undergraduate Students

Arif Pendi, MS
Jahanzeb Ashraf, MS
Kate Wolitzky-Taylor, PhD
Danny Lee, BS, BA
Jeff Sugar, MD
Kasim Pendi, student
Joshua Lee, BS
David Baron, DO, MSEd

This poster was presented at the 29th Annual U.S. Psychiatric & Mental Health Congress, held October 21-24, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas.

Background: Depression remains a common mental illness among American undergraduate students. The stigma associated with depression, which can be divided into personal and perceived components, may pose a deterrent to help-seeking behavior. Few studies have attempted to quantify stigma, particularly in relation to depression severity.

Method: An IRB-approved cross-sectional study was conducted online at a large metropolitan university on the west coast of the USA. The survey consisted of a socio-demographic section, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and Depression Stigma Scale (DSS). Analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS 22 and Microsoft Excel 15.11.2.

Results: Of 1080 responses, 36.3% met the criteria for moderate to severe depression. Moderately to severely depressed students were associated with lower average personal stigma scores (p=0.023), but higher average perceived stigma scores (p=0.002). Female students (p<0.001), LGBT students (p<0.001), upperclassmen (p<0.001), and students with non-Christian or no religious affiliation (p<0.001) were associated with greater depression severity. Male (p<0.001), heterosexual (p<0.001), unemployed (p<0.05), Caucasian (p<0.001), older (p<0.05), and single-race (p<0.05) students were associated with more stigmatized personal beliefs.

Conclusions: The prevalence of depression among undergraduate students was higher than previously reported. On-campus efforts to reduce stigma must address differences in stigmatized beliefs particularly because students with moderate to severe depression also exhibit more perceived stigma. Several student groups may benefit from targeted depression prevention or stigma reduction interventions.

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