The B.E. Journal of EconomicAnalysis & PolicyContributionsVolume9,Issue12009Article40Mental Health and Academic Success inCollegeDaniel Eisenberg*Ezra Golberstein†Justin B. Hunt‡*University of Michigan, [email protected]†Harvard Medical School, [email protected]‡University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, [email protected]Recommended CitationDaniel Eisenberg, Ezra Golberstein, and Justin B. Hunt (2009) “Mental Health and Academic Suc-cess in College,”The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol. 9: Iss. 1 (Contributions),Article 40.Available at: Copyright c 2009 The Berkeley Electronic Press. All rights reserved.
Mental Health and Academic Success inCollege*Daniel Eisenberg, Ezra Golberstein, and Justin B. HuntAbstractMental health problems represent a potentially important but relatively unexplored factor inexplaining human capital accumulation during college. We conduct the first study, to our knowl-edge, of how mental health predicts academic success during college in a random longitudinalsample of students. We find that depression is a significant predictor of lower GPA and higherprobability of dropping out, particularly among students who also have a positive screen for ananxiety disorder.In within-person estimates using our longitudinal sample, we find again thatco-occurring depression and anxiety are associated with lower GPA, and we find that symptomsof eating disorders are also associated with lower GPA. This descriptive study suggests potentiallylarge economic returns from programs to prevent and treat mental health problems among col-lege students, and highlights the policy relevance of evaluating the impact of such programs onacademic outcomes using randomized trials.KEYWORDS:mental health, education, human capital, college, higher education*This study was funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan and the followingunits at the University of Michigan: the Comprehensive Depression Center (Innovation Fund), theSchool of Public Health, the Department of Health Management and Policy (McNerney Award),the Rackham Graduate School, and the Office for the Vice President of Research. During the writ-ing of this paper Ezra Golberstein was funded by NIMH (T32 postdoctoral traineeship) and JustinHunt was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program. We aregrateful for helpful comments from Martha Bailey, Jason Fletcher, Richard Frank, Tom McGuire,Ellen Meara, Kevin Stange, Jacob Vigdor, two anonymous reviewers and participants in the Uni-versity of Michigan informal labor economics seminar. We are also grateful to Scott Crawfordand the Survey Sciences Group for implementing the web surveys, to Sarah Gollust and JenniferHefner for assistance developing the Healthy Minds Study, and to Andy Cameron for assistanceacquiring the administrative data.
Americans are inundated with messages about success—in school, in a