Adequacy of depression treatment among college students in the United States

Daniel Eisenberg, Henry Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: There is no published evidence on the adequacy of depression care among college students and how this varies by subpopulations and provider types. We estimated the prevalence of minimally adequate treatment among students with significant past-year depressive symptoms. Method: Data were collected via a confidential online survey of a random sample of 8488 students from 15 colleges and universities in the 2009 Healthy Minds Study. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, adapted to a past-year time frame. Students with probable depression were coded as having received minimally adequate depression care based on the criteria from Wang and colleagues (2005). Results: Minimally adequate treatment was received by only 22% of depressed students. The likelihood of minimally adequate treatment was similarly low for both psychiatric medication and psychotherapy. Minimally adequate care was lower for students prescribed medication by a primary care provider as compared to a psychiatrist (P<.01). Racial/ethnic minority students were less likely to receive depression care (P<.01). Conclusions: Adequacy of depression care is a significant problem in the college population. Solutions will likely require greater availability of psychiatry care, better coordination between specialty and primary care using collaborative care models, and increased efforts to retain students in psychotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral hospital psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • College students
  • Depression
  • Minimally adequate treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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