Prevalence of Depression among Chinese University Students: A Meta-Analysis

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 12;11(4):e0153454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153454. eCollection 2016.


Background: Depression is a major mental health issue worldwide, and university students with heavy burdens of study are at a high risk for depression. While a number of studies have been conducted regarding depression among university students in China, there is a lack of information regarding the national prevalence of depression among Chinese university students. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis to statistically pool the prevalence of depression among Chinese university students.

Methods: A systematic search of scientific databases was conducted, including Chinese Web of Knowledge, Embase, PubMed, Wanfang (a Chinese database) and Weipu (a Chinese database) to find relevant publications published between 1995 and December 2015. This was supplemented by a secondary review of the reference lists of all retrieved papers to find additional relevant citations. Studies published in either English or Chinese that provided prevalence estimates of depression in Chinese university students were considered. Prevalence estimates of each eligible study were extracted and pooled in our meta-analysis using a random-effects model.

Results: A total of 39 studies conducted between 1997 and 2015 including 32,694 university students were analyzed. Our results indicate that the overall prevalence of depression among Chinese university students is 23.8% (95% CI: 19.9%-28.5%). Substantial heterogeneity in prevalence estimates was noted. Subgroup analysis revealed that the prevalence of depression among medical students is higher than among other students.

Conclusions: Overall, the prevalence of depression among Chinese university students is exceedingly high. This suggests that it is imperative that more attention be given to the development of appropriate mental healthcare strategies for university students in China.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • China / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.