I came across this article, which discusses the impact of depression, and to a lesser extent anxiety, on both the completion rate and academic performance of college students. While it makes intuitive sense that students with depression might struggle with college more than those without depression, what I like about this research is its exploration of the types of depression involved. In terms of academic performance, it is the loss of motivation, rather than the experience of depressed affect, which impairs the student’s academic performance. From the article:
"The correlation between depression and academic performance is mainly driven by loss of interest in activities," Eisenberg said. "This is significant because it means individuals can be very depressed and very functional, depending on which type of depression they have. I think that this can be true for many high achieving people, who may feel down and hopeless but not lose interest in activities.
"Lots of students who have significant depression on some dimension are performing just fine, but may be at risk and go unnoticed because there is no noticeable drop in functioning."
The article also discusses how comorbid anxiety (very common, as anxiety and depression tend to go together) increases the degree of academic impairment:
There are some important insights to be gained from research like this. First, depending on the type of depression one experiences, a change in behavior may not necessarily be evident. Just because someone continues to maintain a certain degree of functioning does not mean they are not experiencing depression. However, depression ought to be screened should a change in functioning occur, especially absent some other apparent cause. It seems like colleges are dramatically improving in their ability to assess, recognize, and intervene with students who are experiencing mental health difficulties, which often emerge, or increase, during young adulthood. This is especially important because the individuals who would normally be most familiar with a change in presentation - family members - are often no longer seeing their child on a regular basis. The ability of school employees and fellow students to be informed and make educated observations can help pick up the slack.