The impact of tuition fees amount on mental health over time in British students

J Public Health (Oxf). 2015 Sep;37(3):412-8. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv003. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


Background: Previous studies have shown a relationship between debt and mental health problems in students. This study aimed to examine the effect of differences in tuition fees amount on changes in mental health over time.

Methods: A prospective cohort study followed 390 first-year British students who differed on their tuition fees level at 4 time points across their first 2 years at university. Participants completed measures of global mental health, depression, anxiety, stress, alcohol-related problems at up to four time points in their first two years at university. Mixed-factorial ANOVAs were used to assess the impact of tuition fees amount on changes in scores over time.

Results: There was no difference based on fees at Time 1 for anxiety, stress, depression and global mental health. At Time 2, those charged £0-2.9k or £3-4k improved while those charged £8-9k stayed the same. However, this trend reversed by Times 3 and 4.

Conclusions: Undergraduates mental health is partially affected by the level of tuition fees; however, the recent increase in tuition fees does not appear to have had a lasting impact at present.

Keywords: debt; depression; financial stress; mental health; student; undergraduate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / economics
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / economics
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Depression / economics
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Fees and Charges / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / economics
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / economics
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Universities / economics
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult