Depression and Depression-Specific Stigma in American Graduate Students at a Large Metropolitan University: Preliminary Findings of a Cross-sectional Study

January 24, 2017

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 constitutes a common mental illness among American graduate students. Because social stigma surrounding depression may impede students from seeking help, it is necessary to investigate stigmatized attitudes in students displaying symptoms of depression. The goal of this study was to determine the prevalence of depression in graduate students, any association between depression severity and stigmatized beliefs, and predictors of depression symptoms or stigmatized beliefs.

Method: An IRB-approved survey was disseminated to graduate students online at a large metropolitan university in California, USA. The survey consisted of a socio-demographic section, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and the Depression Stigma Scale (DSS). Analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS Version 22 and Microsoft Excel Version 15.11.2.

Results: Of 199 respondents, 35.7% met the PHQ-9 summed-item scoring criteria for moderate the severe depression and exhibited, on average, higher scores on the perceived stigma subscale of the DSS (p<0.05). Having non-religious or non-Christian affiliation was associated with higher average scores on the PHQ-9 scale (p<0.05). Males (p<0.05), heterosexual students (p<0.05), and lowerclassmen (p<0.05) associated with greater average scores on the DSS subscale for personal stigma.

Conclusions: 35.7% of students exhibited moderate to severe depression and were associated with more stigmatized perceived beliefs. Therefore, on-campus initiatives to improve mental health must account for differences in perceived stigma displayed by graduate students with greater depression severity. In addition, prevention and screening efforts may need to be focused to non-religious or non-Christian students. Finally, males, heterosexual students, and lowerclassmen may benefit from targeted stigma reduction efforts.    

Arif Pendi, MS; Jahanzeb Ashraf, MS; Kate Wolitzky-Taylor, PhD; Samir Abou El Magd, MD; Sherif Gohar, MD; Mohamed Khalil, MD; Feng-Jen Tsai, PhD, LLM; Ciny Liu, student; Danny Lee, BS, BA; David Baron, DO, MSEd
Sponsoring Organization: 
Presented By: 
Arif Pendi, MS, Biomedical Researcher, UC Irvine, Orange, CA
Mood Disorders