A Snapshot of Mental Health and Wellness of Engineering Students across the Western United States

Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

2020 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)






This work in progress research paper characterizes mental wellness in engineering at five institutions across the Western United States to better understand what mental health issues most affect the broader engineering student community. Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that stress and certain mental wellness issues are particularly acute in the field of Engineering, and some recent research has shown elevated rates of mental wellness issues at different institutions around the country. This paper presents the results of a previously validated mental health survey conducted with first- and second-year students at several universities. The results of this work include screening rates for major mental health issues (e.g. DSM diagnosable) and moderate mental health issues as captured by the Kessler 6 screening instrument; screening rates for depressive, anxiety, and eating disorders as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ); and screening rates for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as measured by the Primary-Care Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PC-PTSD) instrument. This work also includes a preliminary analysis of screen rates by demographic groups so that educators and academic facilitators may be better aware of the types of challenges that face a diverse engineering student populace. Overall, we find that 28.4% percent of respondents potentially suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition as measured by Kessler 6. We also find that an additional 55.2% of students screen positive for moderate psychological distress. Breaking measurements down by demographic groups, we find that female respondents, particularly those from historically excluded ethnic groups and races, show elevated rates of Panic and PTSD disorders when compared to the male population.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation


Accessibility, Disability, Equity, First and Second Year, Inclusion, Mental Health, Wellness