PhD Students More Than Twice as Likely to Develop Mental Health Issues

Right now, as I am doing my undergraduate studies, I have idealistic plans about also doing a PhD. However, I actually did not realize how difficult it would be. Doing a PhD in any subject/ field anywhere in the world is scarier than walking down the aisle on your wedding day. There’s nerves, anticipation, fear, thrill and just about every other adrenaline-rush emotion you can think of. All of this will be in equal parts, too, and for as long – or short – as your PhD goes on for.

However, at the end of this time you will hold your degree certifying that you are the leading expert in your field of study in the world. After all, you’ve spent at least three years studying and researching on just one topic.

Which brings us to the actual problem at hand. Studying and researching on one topic for as long as this, most often alone, is stressful. Experiences of studying for PhDs vary from person to person but the general consensus is that composing a doctoral thesis from scratch is an extremely taxing task. PhD students actually suffer from various mental health problems ranging from chronic anxiety to clinical depression.

Researchers Say That the Pressure is Too Real

A team of international researchers conducted a new study that showed how these conditions are so common in this particular demographic. Writing in Research Policy, the study concluded that one out of every two PhD students go through psychological distress and one out of every three are at risk of experiencing a psychiatric disorder, particularly depression, either in the long- or short- run.

It should be noted that the study in question was conducted in Belgium by analyzing more 3000 participants who were PhD researchers at that time.

Most students feel constantly under strain, unhappiness, depression, sleeping problems due to constant worries about deadlines and research results, and inability to overcome difficulties, according to the team from Ghent University who also add that students are no longer capable of enjoying their daily activities.

Academic vs Personal Life

The main reason for these mental health issues is the work-family conflict because of the demanding research work interfering with family commitments or general personal life and commitments. Other reasons are the huge amount of work overload, unrealistic demands and discouraging supervisors.

The team also observed that mental health problems prevalence is higher in PhD students than in the rest of the highly educated general population, including employees and higher education students. In fact, a PhD student is 2.4 times more likely to develop mental health issues during the time he or she is developing his thesis than those with an undergraduate degree.

Via Iflscience


  • Asim

    To me, Knowledge and its proper implementation matters, not degrees or certificates.

    • Omair

      With this you wont be short-listed for an interview without a reference.

      • Asim

        Then we are PhD only for interview

  • Umair Shah Yousafzai

    It’s only us,the foolish pakistani’s who are talking still degrees & certificates language while the western people are not in it for degrees or certificates,never seen them talking about degrees all about just the knowledge while we are in it for degrees & certificates which really led us to the results that we became a nation of degree and certificate holders but in reality the person knows nothing…so what type of education is that then if you are called a person qualified but still doesn’t know anything,that’s really a shame then..let me give you just one example..As I am a programmer so I would give you a related example then…I don’t know if you people would have heard or I am sure mostly people will know that StackOverFlow is one of the largest programmers community.Programmers from all over the world can be found there i.e from Google,Facebook etc…So I haven’t seen there mostly upto 80 to 90% that careers have mentioned any education degree requirements just the proper technologies skills for the qualification for the job just because in reality your degree won’t matter,what matters are your skills as to what you can do and what you can’t…!

    • Syed Hashim Raza Bukhari

      Dear Umair, your comments are based on single side of picture. As you are related with applied technologies i.e. programming so you feel that skill is all about individual performance. Skill is good but you cannot under estimate the importance of intellectual contribution. If you say that western people only acknowledge the skill and degrees don’t matter, then why Canada, US, Australia, France, Switzerland (there are many other names as well) are the countries which offer highest paid PhD and Post Doc scholarships. Every field has its importance and contribution in the society. We should not under estimate the other’s effort and should promote the education in our beloved country Pakistan through achieving quality degrees.

  • Kashif Syed

    Hence. We call them Phd, Phira Howa Demagh :)

    Joke aside, its a commercial pressure. to complete to get the job to return the cost blah blah blah,.
    Unnecessary , fake and commercial pressure driving students to commercially designed workaholics rather then a scholars.

  • Noor

    Your article looks very interesting`. Im currently a phD scholar in my country and to share my experience with you all. I completed my course work a year back and faced loads of discouraging behaviour of people even there are people who just try to not let you proceed but when Allah has destined for you no one can stop. Just one thing choose the topic which interests you the most and yes most importantly choose the supervisor who understands you the best. Currently, im conducting my research in mental health issues and research makes you very very anxious but with the grace of Allah Almighty im blessed with the bestest of everything. My supervisor is a blessing for me mashaAllah and so are my friends mashaAllah. In a society like pakistan for girls its a challenge people keep judging you dont listen to them. Do what you like and only then you can achieve. Yes, in pakistan people dont learn they only want degrees but for phd you need motivation, positivity and most importantly patience and Focus is the main thing. Abroad there are countless opportunities but we lack this in pakistan. Here people are jealous unfortunately being muslims but those people encourage you and answer your queries in such an interesting ways.
    Best wishes