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.
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