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Effects of Depression on Academic Performance

Info: 3036 words (12 pages) Example Dissertation Proposal
Published: 29th Sep 2021

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Tagged: Psychology


The primary objective of this paper will be to investigate the burden which depression places on academic performance. Academic performance can be viewed as a direct parallel to workforce performance, with students belonging to a unique set of individuals whose ability to perform can be measured on criteria applied by an observer and by self-report (Hysenbegasi, Hass and Rowland, 2005). The issue will be examined using the thorough review and synthesis of many past studies conducted and the Peer-Reviewed Academic Literature on the subject. The connection between depression and academic performance has become more and more evident over the years. More specifically, several key symptoms of depression, such as impaired ability to concentrate, loss of interest, poor initiative, psychomotor retardation, low self-esteem, sense of worthlessness as well as social withdrawal may significantly disturb cognitive performance and diminish initiative in learning (Hammen, 1998). Moreover, the impact on learning and education from these symptoms cannot be measured or surveyed in terms of a one-dimensional framework. From my research on this subject many of the past studies use different evaluating tests or tools, but they also vary heavily in terms of the participants or ages sampled. Through understanding these variations and methods for this topic, it’s grown apparent that there needs to be a stronger and more effective method to explore the connection from a wider quantitative and qualitative perspective.

For example, one study conducted by Alketa Hysenbegasi, Steven L. Hass and Clayton R. Rowland (2005), was based on students at the University of Western Michigan who had been diagnosed with depression at the on-campus health center. These researchers aimed to explore how these students who were indeed diagnosed by their school, had been performing on all academic tasks. Although this is a good way to correlate and connect people who were actually depressed to the effects directly on their academics, this study is missing all the people who haven’t been diagnosed yet. For example, the people who have been diagnosed by an outside doctor and all of the other age groups who are being affected by this disorder won’t be evident in this study. This research problem should be analyzed using a mixed-method study. This method requires careful planning to describe each aspect of research and it incorporates qualitative and quantitative research models, which will involve the widest array of information possible and ultimately provide the best results. Since people of all ages can and do suffer from this, discussing the implications of depression with students and aggressively pursuing both medication and non-medication therapies are essential in preventing the high morbidity associated with treated or untreated depression (Heiligenstein, 2010).

Background & Significance

To emphasize the importance and elaborate more about the main conflict of this paper, many of the scholarly works’ main points will be analyzed. Since this problem is reasonably complex and many of the researchers attacked it differently, the facts are what stand out to me. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (1999), depression affects approximately 19 million American adults each year. Unfortunately, depression is one of the more common mental health conditions documented on college campuses across the United States (Smith, Rosenstein, & Granass, 2001). Depression is estimated to affect nearly 50% of the college student population (Furr, Westefeld, McConnell, & Jenkins, 2001). Since depression is persistent, extremely hard to handle, and can negatively affect someone’s ability to perform as they normally would academically, this study is vitally important for prevention of these effects in the future. In my research, I will address the major issues of these effects. First, I will be focusing on how students who have been performing poorly academically or who have experienced a recent drop in their grades should have a general screening at their school’s facility to assess whether they might have a few symptoms of depression and how they can receive immediate help. I plan to further my research by examining and using one study as a basis by Virginia DeRoma (2009) who wanted all colleges to have a process where struggling students can be screened for various disturbances.

Second, I will address the problem where students who are current undergrads suffering from depression are not only suffering poor academic grades, but also are in immense danger of affecting their futures in the job market after graduation. Alketa Hysenbegasi’s (2005) research will be a key insight for my analysis on the conflict, since he included how depressed undergrads are at severe risk for harming their potential in the upcoming job market. Lastly, I will examine how depression is negatively impacting people’s concentration, social relationships, grades in school and self-motivation towards academic achievement. Through the Peer-Reviewed Academic Literature I will be using, many scholars provided a great deal of information on the mental, physical and future harms that will help me enormously in my analysis on this problem.

The next section of this proposal, will expand on each of the sources I just provided and will constitute much of the final paper, in significantly greater detail.

Literature Review

This section will comprise of a more deliberate review and synthesis of the studies related to the effects of depression on academic performance. Many of the studies I have chosen to analyze and collect data from, have been very insightful. Although, there are still many processes and alternatives I will be focusing on and doing differently in my research.

One study in the College Student Journal examined the connection between self-reported depressive symptomology and college academic performance. Although this was only for college students, a substantial, negative relationship was discovered between depression and academic performance. Additionally, students exhibiting with moderate levels of depressive symptoms revealed lower performance within academic environments compared to the people who possessed normal and low levels of depression. The authors suggested a need for appropriate screening measures and even interventions to assist in lowering moderate depressive symptoms that have a strong possibility to poorly impact academic functioning (DeRoma, 2009). Since this study aimed at college system administrators to cultivate training procedures for college faculty to focus on identifying, intervening and referring depressed students to counseling centers, I believe that this method can be successful in many schools (Elementary, Middle and high-school) as well.

A study by three PhD researchers (Alketa Hysenbegasi, Steven L. Hass and Clayton R. Rowland) on Western Michigan university’s campus investigates the relationship between depression and its treatments and the academic performance of undergraduate students. These men used a very strong quantitative approach to this problem and came across many of their results from complex formulas. Only investigating students that had been diagnosed with depression at the campuses Health Center was who they were analyzing. Using data concerning academics, health and productivity for students from Western Michigan University were obtained from the University’s Registrar’s Office, the campus Health Center and a survey supplied to the students, there were a variety of outcomes these researchers were looking for. The primary being the student’s grade point average (GPA), which was used as a measuring tool of academic productivity. Through two regression models, they found results where diagnosed depression was associated with half a letter grade, decrease in student GPA, while treatment was associated with a protective effect of approximately 0.44 points (Hass and Rowland, 2005). These researchers didn’t propose solutions to these conflicts, but they did go over how these symptoms can affect the future of an undergrad juristically. Not only will his grade point average be lower, but his drive and motivation towards the job market will be severely affected. I found this study helpful as it goes over this major conflict, whereas none of the other studies talked about this direct problem. This study clearly showed the effect depressive symptoms can have on a student’s academic achievements and overall G.P.A., but I still feel that their research didn’t come close to how many people are actually suffering from this disorder at the University. Since their sample size wasn’t very large, I will look to fix this issue in my method which will be discussed later.

The study in the Peer-Reviewed Academic Literature exemplified the major mental and physical effects academically, associated with depression. The study was designed to inspect the associations between various levels of depression with many features of school performance. The study consisted of seventh graders to ninth graders who were given a questionnaire based on depression symptoms, subjective questions and objective questions which were later analyzed further quantitatively. The results of this study concluded that all severity levels of depression were more common among those who had difficulties in concentrating, in paying attention to teaching, in teamwork, with peers, in relationships with teachers, doing homework, preparing for examinations, finding personal learning strategies, in activities requiring initiative, in reading tasks and in writing tasks (Frojd and Nissinen, 2008). This study was reasonably helpful, but I wanted there to be more contradictions between the scholars who were associated with this study. But, it was helpful for my research because I got a better feel of the mental and physical impairments which come along with these symptoms. I also enjoyed how this was the only study which focused on much younger minds, and not on college students.

Research Design & Method

The targeted subjects for my proposed experiment would consist of 4,000+ students, ranging from high-school freshman to college seniors. I will target these four schools based on two different regions, preferably two on the west coast and two on the east coast. This range of students from 13-22 years old will be surveyed first on their depressive symptoms on a ten-point quantitative data gathering tool of the likert scale, ranging from “no feeling” to “high feeling”. The questions I will ask will be associated to discover if they have a lack of motivation towards school, if they are feeling lost in their future, have feelings of unworthiness or like they’re not as intelligent as other people and also about their at home habits and thoughts towards school-work. I will also ask questions about their preferences and activities they like to participate in so I can obtain qualitative data and compare this amongst the different age groups. I will ask the students to provide their grades and perceptions from the past five years, so that way I will be able to compare and contrast my data and figure out if there has been changes in a student’s goals and grades over this time frame. All the students who have given information and seem to be at risk of being diagnosed with depression will be asked to come into the school’s health care center in order to be screened to assist them in recognizing their conflict. I know that this technique will provide me with a higher sample size and also a wider array of ages so I can gather a better understanding of what’s going on. Everything will be anonymous to maintain an ethical protocol and the data gathered quantitatively and qualitatively will help derive rich results.

Preliminary Implications and Suppositions

If the results of the study demonstrate a correlation between depression and an increased effect on academic performance, an abundance of opportunities will open and I will put this on display for many schools and professionals to see. This will bring upon more preventative actions to take place and will change the way schools react to this problem in the future. Exposure through expanded research on this connection can lead to more schools having facilities to help the affected students and lead them closer to seeking help, whether that be on or of school grounds. “Morning greetings and frequent check-ins throughout the day might seem like a small thing, but many students tell me that they wish the staff at their school knew them better. Kids want to feel understood. They also want to forge connections” (Hurley, 2017). Though a method like this is in no way the clear answer to stopping this problem, I believe that acts like this will help young students feel connected at their schools and boost their self-esteem. More data needs to be collected on variables that can lessen or perhaps reverse the negative thoughts and behaviors at school. This study and the ones that follow are crucial to making the changes that are necessary and in finding the most appropriate solutions for schools to incorporate. Today’s youth becomes tomorrow’s adults, and the longer that people are negatively impacted because they can’t focus or don’t have the resources readily available to help them, the more people that will have had their learning and development opportunities taken away from them. On the other hand, it would be the best case scenario if there ended up being no correlation between the two in my study and this would be very relieving. Although based on my research and the structure of my proposed analysis, there should be a great deal of applicants who are affected by depression. Moving forwards, I believe that psychologists or guidance counselors will have a much more expanded role on school grounds, because it’s essential for students to receive positive reinforcement on not just their abilities, but on their thoughts as well. This would be immensely beneficial for many and would alleviate the pressure off students who are seeking direction. The more understanding and clarity on this topic will leave students more excited towards their school work and contribute to positive associations between the members of the school.


As todays student’s continue growing at all ages, many are faced with the conflict of depression which places a damaging burden on their academic performance. I propose that a study that incorporates intensive analysis through a Likert scale to be completed to observe how many students are being affected. More specifically, several key symptoms of depression, such as impaired ability to concentrate, loss of interest, poor initiative, psychomotor retardation, low self-esteem, sense of worthlessness as well as social withdrawal may significantly disturb cognitive performance and diminish initiative in learning (Hammen, 1998). Such research could prevent damaging of one’s futures and gear them towards positive development using school facilities.


Bhattacharya, R., Bhattacharya, B., & Mandal, S. K. (2016). Study On Depression, Anxiety And Distress To Analyse Academic Performance Of Undergraduate Student’S. EDULEARN16 Proceedings. doi:10.21125/edulearn.2016.0698

DeRoma, Virginia M., et al. (2009) “The relationship between depression and college academic performance.” College Student Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, 2009, p. 325+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A201608594/AONE?u=kingslrc&sid=AONE&xid=6157574a. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

Mackenzie, S., Wiegel, J. R., Mundt, M., Brown, D., Saewyc, E., Heiligenstein, E., . . . Fleming, M. (2011). Depression and suicide ideation among students accessing campus health care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(1), 101-107.

Hysenbagasi, A., Hass, S. and Rowland, C. (2005). [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rylee_Oram/publication/291417258_A_Feasibility_Trial_of_a_Novel_Approach_to_Depression_Prevention_Targeting_Proximal_Risk_Factors_and_Application_of_a_Model_of_Health-Behaviour_Change/links/5818c33408ae1f34d24aa65e.pdf [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Hammen (1998) Depression and school performance in middle adolescent boys and girls C.L. Hammen Depression Psychology Press, Hove (1998)

Frojd, S., & Nissinen, E. (2007, October 18). Depression and school performance in middle adolescent boys and girls. Retrieved February 21, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197107000929?via%3Dihub#bbib16

Pessin, E. (2016, July 21). Depression and its Affects on Academic Achievement. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/depression-and-its-affects-on-academic-achievement_us_579136cde4b0a1917a6e54ff

Ahmed, Z., & Julius, S. H. (2015). Academic performance, resilience, depression, anxiety and stress among women college students. Indian Journal Of Positive Psychology6(4), 367-370.

Hurley, K. (2017, January 06). We need to provide better mental health treatment in schools. Here’s how to start. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/01/06/we-need-to-provide-better-mental-health-treatment-in-schools-heres-how-to-start/?utm_term=.753d9c3b3050

This dissertation proposal has been written by a student and is published as an example. See our guide on How to Write a Dissertation Proposal for guidance on writing your own proposal.

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