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