Depression and its Affects on Academic Achievement

Depression and its Affects on Academic Achievement
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How are adolescents affected by depression?

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine explain that clinical depression is characterized by:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Irritability
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Social isolation
  • Decline in schoolwork
  • Anger
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances

What are the facts?

  1. Scientists found in a 21-year longitudinal study that mid adolescent (ages 14-16) depression significantly increased the risk for major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance dependencies during young adult years (ages 16-21). Additionally, these young adults experienced an increase risk of suicide attempts, educational underachievement, unemployment, and early parenthood.

  2. The highest prevalence of major depressive episodes is among female adolescents who are 2 or more races, according to the National Institute of Health.

  3. Depression is most common among adolescents who have a family history of depression, who are living in poverty, and have poor problem solving skills (2009).

  4. Adolescents of color are not accessing resources in traditional healthcare settings as much as their white peers (2014) because urban minority youth do not have equal access to resources in their community.

Moreover, health disparities lead to high prevalence of disease among marginalized youth.  

What are the academic implications?

  1. Cognitive Impairment: Symptoms of depression include cognitive impairment and social dysfunction, which reduce school performance.

  2. Bullying: Urban minority youth with depression have been victims of bullying. Researchers found that “deficits in emotional clarity predicted greater peer victimization among adolescent girls” (2016).

  3. Absenteeism: As mentioned earlier, family factors play a large role in depression. Research suggests that family factors also play a large role in absenteeism in school (2015), highlighting the need to improve collaboration between schools, parents and students.

Moreover, depression affects educational outcomes

What can schools do to reduce this problem?

Engage parents in programming: Youth who observe violence and conflict in the family are at greater risk for developing depressive symptoms during the high school years (2015). Additional research found that high school seniors with depression had poorer relationships with their parents (2001). Moreover, the home environment and family factors are very important for healthy youth development and depression prevention. Schools can prevent depression by enhancing communication with parents and involving them in interventions targeting cognition and depression.

Ensure urban schools have adequate resources: Urban minority youth spend the majority of their time in school, and “schools play an increasingly critical role in supporting these students and providing a safe, non-stigmatizing, and supportive natural environment in which children, youth, and families have access to prevention, early intervention, and treatment through school-based mental health programs” ( There also needs to be more resources for teachers to be trained in scientifically supported skills that will help their students. According to scientists (2015), behavioral interventions targeting psychosocial change should include “exposure-based interventions, relaxation training, and/or social skills training with the student, and contingency management procedures with the parents and school staff”.

Encourage physical activity: Physical activity helps to reduce depression, increase mood and classroom behavior (IOM). However, “the majority of school-aged youth do not meet recommended levels of daily physical activity” (2011). If there is not proper infrastructure for them to play outside and increase their physical activity, then they may be more likely to have depression. “Students with a high level of exercise had better relationships with their parents were less depressed, spent more time involved in sports, used drugs less frequently, and had higher grade point averages than did students with a low level of exercise (2001)”

Improve the built environment: Healthy environments include ones that are safe, toxic free and promote healthy lifestyles. There needs to be well lit outdoor and accessible indoor space for kids to play in urban areas.

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