Background: Suicide events were frequently reported among postgraduate students, which has aroused widespread concern about the mental health of them, especially depression or depression symptoms. Although researchers conducted numerous studies on the prevalence of depression in postgraduates, the effect sizes were various from 4.1% to 67.9%.
Objectives: The present study aims to summarize the information of publications on depression, estimate the prevalence of depression with a meta-analysis and identify factors associated with depression among postgraduates with systematic review.
Methods: The meta-analysis was adopted to estimate the prevalence of depression among postgraduates, and the systematic review was adapted to synthesize related factors. The primary studies were retrieved with English electronic databases, including articles published from 1980 to 2019. Statistical analyses were performed with R 3.6.1, CMA V2 and SPSS 22.
Results: 16 primary studies (with 17 reports and 11,386 individuals) were included in the meta-analysis, and 15 primary studies were included in the systematic review (totalling 7,800 individuals). The random-effects meta-analysis showed that: (a) The prevalence of mild depression was 31% (95% CI: 22%–40%), moderate depression was 18% (95% CI: 15%–23%), and severe depression was 6% (95% CI: 4%–10%); (b) PhD students have a higher prevalence of depression than masters except in severe depression; The effect size was influenced by the measurements and sampling methods. (c) There was no difference both in genders and regions. Besides, the prevalence of depression among postgraduates increased since 2003, while this change was no statistically significant.
The systematic review showed that the factors related to depression in postgraduates included suicidal behaviour, negative emotion, substance abuse, and eating disorder.
Conclusions: Postgraduate students have a high risk of depression, especially in PhDs, and the prevalence of depression has been increasing, but this change was not significant.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: Postgraduate students