Background: Students are an important part of the general population of Germany, but only limited information exists about the prevalence of common psychological syndromes among them.
Objective: To provide prevalence rates for various psychological syndromes (affective, anxiety, somotoform, eating disorders, and alcohol associated problems) among German university students.
Methods: A campus-wide survey including N = 1130 students at the University of Mannheim was conducted. Established assessment instruments were employed for this purpose: the German version of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), the German Version of the Whiteley-Index (WI), and the Chemical Odor Sensitivity Scale (COSS) to screen for idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI).
Results: PHQ criteria for at least one psychological disorder (apart from the alcohol abuse/dependence syndrome) were met by 22.7% of the students, more frequently by women than men (OR = 1.8). The alcohol syndrome (30.2%) was most frequent and the only syndrome which was more frequent in men than in women. The next frequent syndrome was the somatoform syndrome (9.1%), followed by other depressive syndromes (8.1 %), IEI (7.2%), major depression (6.0%) and hypochondriasis (4.2%). The presence of hypochondriasis increased greatly the risk for co-morbid disorders. All syndromes--with the exception of the alcohol syndrome and the binge eating disorder--were accompanied by functional impairments.
Conclusions: We consider these results rather alarming, as they indicate a considerable need for both preventive and curative interventions in German students. However, further epidemiological studies are needed to prove the generalizability of our findings and to examine functional interrelations among and the course of these psychological syndromes.