Spring 2018 Mental Health & Well-being Population Data

In fall 2017, the President's A Path Forward Mental Health Action team recommended that the Institute "establish resources for centralized campus leadership and coordination of mental health support on campus with the goal of monitoring trends, improving mental health service provision, and reducing what appears to be higher-than-peer-average rates of stress, anxiety, and suicidal thinking." As part of this recommendation, the team indicated that the Institute should:

  • Implement continuing periodic student surveys on mental health.

  • Embed questions related to mental health in other regular student surveys.

  • Widen the accessibility of survey results to campus constituents.

  • Provide resources/support for implementation following surveys.

In addition to the recommendations from the President’s Action Teams, it is a standard practice in higher education to administer population health and well-being surveys every 2-3 years to understand student health status, needs and assets, and identify campus and community health needs and resources.

In spring 2018, the Division of Campus Services and the Division of Student Life conducted four surveys to evaluate student mental health and well-being and the annual campus services satisfaction survey.

Survey Methods

 Campus Services Satisfaction Survey (CSSS), Number of Responses w/ diamond asterisk: 1,291 undergraduates and graduate students, Response Rate: 26%, Data Years: 2016-2018; Line Two: Survey: Healthy Minds Survey Sample 1* (HMS), Number of Responses w/ diamond asterisk: 1,015 undergraduates and graduate students, Response Rate: 25.4%, Data Years: 2018; Line Three: Survey: Healthy Minds Survey Sample 2* (HMS), Number of Responses w/ diamond asterisk: 946 undergraduates and graduate students, Response Rate: 23.2%, Data Years: 2018; Line Four: Survey: Wake Forest Wellbeing Assessment (WFWA), Number of Responses w/ diamond asterisk: 721 undergraduates, Response Rate: 21%, Data Years: 2018; Line Five: Survey: Ohio State College Prescription Drug Study (OSCPDS), Number of Responses w/ diamond asterisk: 937 undergraduates and graduate students, Response Rate: 18.8%, Data Years: 2018A randomly generated sample of 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students were surveyed from February 26 through April 27, 2018, about mental health and well-being. 4,910 students participated in the four surveys with an overall response rate of 22.3%. 

* Each HMS had an additional module. Some students received the module related to coping and resilience while others received a module on persistence and retention.
2018 is a pilot year for WFWA.
​ U stands for undergraduate students, G stands for graduate students.

Overall Findings

Trend data indicate an overall decline in some healthy behaviors that support coping and overall well-being. The only exception was related to sleep. (CSSS, 2016-2018).

 6 in 1- students (60%) in 2018 reported eating healthy food options at least 3 days per week compared to almost 9 in 10 students (85%) in 2016.

Students' top health concerns continue to center on mental health and well-being. Stress, anxiety, and depression were identified as the top three health concerns among students (CSSS, 2018).  

Among students who completed HMS, about 3 in 10 (32%) reported experiencing at least one significant mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts, self-injury, or symptoms of eating disorders. Among those students, an estimated 2 in 5 (44%) students received mental health services (HMS, 2018)

Students reported seeking support for their mental or emotional health from the following places:

  • 2 in 5 students (43%) reported seeking support from a friend.
  • 3 in 10 students (32%) reported seeking support from family.
  • 3 in 10 students (27%) reported seeking support from their significant other.

Students also reported the following barriers to help-seeking from mental health services:

  • About 3 in 10 students (27%) reported preferring to deal with issues on their own or with support from family and friends.
  • About 2 in 10 students (22%) reported not having enough time to seek mental health services.
  • About 1 in 10 students (12%) reported financial reasons preventing them from seeking mental health services.

Additionally, there is a perceived stigma related to seeking mental health services on campus. Over half (59%) of the student respondents agreed with the statement that "Most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment." (HMS, 2018).

Areas of Strength

The surveys also identified factors that help contribute to positive mental health and well-being on campus. 

 Almost all students (98%) would talk to someone if they were experiencing serious emotional distress (HMS, 2018).; Approximately 8 in 10 students (83%) rarely or never use drugs or alcohol to manage stress (OSCPDS, 2018).; Approximately 8 in 10 students (82%) know where to go if they needs to seek professional help for mental & emotional health (HMS, 2018).; Approximately 8 in 10 students (82%) reported being satisfied with their use of campus mental health services (HMS, 2018).; Approximately 6 in 10 students (63)% reported “thriving” at least 3 days per week (CSS, 2018).; More than half of students (57%) feel their life is meaningful and significant (WFWA, 2018).Additionally, Georgia Tech students reported rates at and/or above benchmark for a number of social-emotional constructs when compared to other participating institutions (WFWA, 2018):

  • Almost 6 in 10 students (57%) feel a sense of acceptance.
  • More than half of students (56%) are satisfied with their life.
  • Approximately half of students (54%) feel a sense of inclusion.
  • Approximately half of students (53%) report high levels of self-esteem.
  • Half of students (50%) feel a sense of belonging.

Areas of Concern

Student feelings of anxiety, such as worrying and nervousness, are high, but consistent with the other institutions who participated in the surveys (WFWA, 2018; HMS, 2018).

Georgia Tech students reported consistent and/or slightly lower rates* of feeling the following for 7 or more days in a two week period (WFWA, 2018)

  • About half of students (54%) reported feeling depressed.
  • Almost 8 in 10 students (79%) reported feeling sad.

Students also reported slightly lower rates* in relation to loneliness for 7 or more days in a two week period (WFWA, 2018):

  • Almost 4 in 10 students (38%) reported feeling like they don't have friends.
  • Half of students (51%) reported feeling left out.
  • Over half of students (57%) reported feeling isolated from others.

Additionally, Georgia Tech students' rating of their perseverance and grit are slightly lower than benchmark* (WFWA, 2018). Only 2 in 5 students (42%) reported flourishing, which is a measure of self-perceived success in important areas such as relationships, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism (HMS, 2018). 

Finally, students surveyed also rated their relationships with faculty and staff in relation to respect, support, and mentorship as below average (WFWA, 2018).

*Compared to benchmarks set by institutions that participated in the 2018 WFWA Pilot. 

Progress & Next Steps

​As of March 2019, survey data has been used to inform and implement the following:

Efforts continue to be expanded and refined to promote students in leading balanced, connected, and purposeful lives where they experience high levels of physical, emotional, social, and professional wellbeing. Georgia Tech is committed to conducting regular population health surveys of the student community to understand the state of well-being as it evolves.

For more information or questions, please contact Joi Alexander, Director, Health Initiatives.