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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 63 (2021) 1, 24 - 31


Major depressive episode in college freshmen: prevalence, academic functioning and receipt of treatment

A. D’Hulst, G. Kiekens, R.P. Auerbach, P. Cuijpers, K. Demyttenaere, D.D. Ebert, J.G. Green, R.C. Kessler, P. Mortier, M.K. Nock, R. Bruffaerts

Background Little is known about the epidemiology of Major Depressive Episode (mde) in university students. Aim To investigate the prevalence of mde, psychiatric comorbidity, and the association with academic performance among first-year university students, and to investigate to what extent these students use professional mental health services. Method All first-year students at the ku Leuven (Leuven, Belgium) were invited to complete a computer-assisted survey with a weighted cross-sectional design (N=5,460; response rate corrected for drop-out=51.8%). mde was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview – Screening Scales (cidi-sc) with dsm-iv criteria. Results We found that 13.6% of first-year students met criteria for a cidi-sc mde in the past year. mde was associated with a wide range of other comorbid disorders (such as generalized anxiety disorder or hypo[mania]) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. mde was associated with significantly lower academic year percentage (-3.6 to -6.4%) and elevated odds of academic year failure (ors=1.5-2.0). Professional service use was estimated at 21.5%. Conclusion mde is common among first-year university students and is associated with a high degree of psychiatric comorbidity and poor academic performance. It is therefore surprising that so few students actually receive treatment for their psychiatric and emotional problems. Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 63(2021)1, 24-31.