Recent violent attacks on college campuses in the United States have sparked discussions regarding the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and the perpetration of violence among college students. While previous studies have examined the potential association between mental health problems and violent behavior, the overall pattern of findings flowing from this literature remain mixed and no previous studies have examined such associations among college students.
The current study makes use of a nationally representative sample of 3,929 college students from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to examine the prevalence of seven violent behaviors and 19 psychiatric disorder diagnoses tapping mood, anxiety, personality, and substance use disorders. Associations between individual and composite psychiatric disorder diagnoses and violent behaviors were also examined. Additional analyses were adjusted for the comorbidity of multiple psychiatric diagnoses.
The results revealed that college students were less likely to have engaged in violent behavior relative to the non-student sample, but a substantial portion of college students had engaged in violent behavior. Age- and sex-standardized prevalence rates indicated that more than 21% of college students reported at least one violent act. In addition, more than 36% of college students had at least one diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Finally, the prevalence of one or more psychiatric disorders significantly increased the odds of violent behavior within the college student sample.
These findings indicate that violence and psychiatric disorders are prevalent on college campuses in the United States, though perhaps less so than in the general population. In addition, college students who have diagnosable psychiatric disorders are significantly more likely to engage in various forms of violent behavior.
Schwartz, Joesph A.; Beaver, Kevin M.; and Barnes, J. C., "The Association between Mental Health and Violence among a Nationally Representative Sample of College Students from the United States" (2015). Criminology and Criminal Justice Faculty Publications. 21.
Funded by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Open Access Fund