Distress levels and self-reported treatment rates for medicine, law, psychology and mechanical engineering tertiary students: A cross-sectional study
Objective: The aim of this research was to assess tertiary student distress levels with regards to (i) comparisons with normative population data, and (ii) the effects of discipline, year level, and student characteristics. Self-reported treatment rates and level of concern regarding perceived distress were also collected. Method: Students from all six years of an undergraduate medical course were compared with samples from Psychology, Law and Mechanical Engineering courses at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Students participated in one of three studies that were either webbased or paper-based. All studies included Kessler ’ s Measure of Psychological Distress (K10), and questions pertaining to treatment for any mental health problems and concern regarding distress experienced. Results: Of the 955 tertiary students who completed the K10, 48% were psychologically distressed (a K10 score>=22) which equated to a rate 4.4 times that of age-matched peers. The non-health disciplines were signifi cantly more distressed than the health disciplines. Distress levels were statistically equivalent across all six years of the medical degree. Of tertiary students, 11% had been treated for a mental health problem. Levels of concern correlated with the K10 score. Conclusion: The results from this research suggest that high distress levels among the tertiary student body may be a phenomenon more widely spread than fi rst thought. Low treatment rates suggest that traditional models of support may be inadequate or not appropriate for tertiary cohorts.