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Apr 22, 2015 02:37 PM EDT

Intervention Programs Could Help College Students Suffering From Depression, Anxiety

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It may be possible to prevent depression, anxiety and stress in college students, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Loyola University Chicago found that universal prevention interventions, or programs targeting general students, not just students who are at risk for or who have already developed problems, were effective in significantly reducing outcomes related to stress, anxiety and depression.

For the study, researchers conducted a careful review of 103 universal interventions involving more than 10,000 students who enrolled in two- and four-year colleges and universities and graduate programs.

Researchers found that these intervention programs also helped in enhancing not only students' social-emotional skills, self-perceptions, and interpersonal relationships, but also their academic adjustment. However, programs differ in their effectiveness.

They noticed that programs that included supervised practice of targeted skills significantly outperformed didactically oriented or psychoeducational programs, as well as skills-based programs without supervised practice.

Researchers said the findings have important implications because stress, anxiety and depression are among the most common adjustment problems experienced by higher education students, and these problems have been rising on college campus.

These problems can interfere with students' academic performance and retention. In contrast, developing psychosocial assets -- including adaptive social and emotional skills, positive self-perceptions, and supportive interpersonal relationships -- demonstrate adaptive links to mental health and academic performance and retention.

They conclude that effective programs to prevent emotional distress and promote psychosocial assets should have more widespread use.

The findings are detailed in the journal Prevention Science

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