PhD Studies Hurt Mental Health, but Less Than Feared
27 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022
Date Written: December 6, 2023
We study the mental health of PhD students in Sweden using comprehensive administrative data on prescriptions, specialist care visits, hospitalizations, and causes of death. We find about 7% (5%) of PhD students receive medication or diagnosis for depression (anxiety) in a given year. These prevalence rates are less than one-third of the earlier reported survey-based estimates, and even after adjusting for difference in methodology, 43% (72%) of the rates in the literature. Nevertheless, PhD students still fare worse than their peers not pursuing graduate studies. Our difference-in-differences research design can attribute at least 80% of this health disadvantage to the time in the PhD program. This deterioration suggests doctoral studies causally affect mental health.
Funding Information: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (Grant 319316 to M.K.) and Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation (Grant 2020.0049 to J.T.).
Conflict of Interests: None.
Ethical Approval: The project was approved by the Regional Ethical Review Board of Stockholm, Statistics Sweden, and the National Board of Health and Welfare.
Keywords: doctoral studies; mental health; depression; anxiety; suicide
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