Prevalence of university non-continuation and mental health conditions, and effect of mental health conditions on non-continuation: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Leow, Timothy, Li, Wendy Wen, Miller, Daniel J., and McDermott, Brett (2024) Prevalence of university non-continuation and mental health conditions, and effect of mental health conditions on non-continuation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Mental Health. (In Press)

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Background: University non-continuation, also termed as university dropout in literature, is a concern for institutions. Elevated stress levels, mental distress, and psychiatric issues affect academic performance and thus may contribute to non-continuation. There is a lack of systematic reviews exploring the link between mental health and university non-continuation.

Aim: This systematic review aims to bridge this gap, by investigating the prevalence of non-continuation and mental health conditions among university students, and the impact of mental health on university non-continuation.

Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines this review synthesized data from 67 studies, utilising both narrative synthesis and meta-analytic techniques.

Results: The results revealed that the included studies reported a range of university non-continuation rates (5.9% to 43.6%) with a pooled prevalence of 17.9%, 95% CI [14.2%, 22.3%]. The prevalence of mental health concerns among students varied widely (2.2% to 83.6%), with a pooled prevalence of 26.3%, 95% CI [16.0%, 40.0%]. Depression, OR = 1.143 (95% CI [1.086, 1.203] p<.001), stress, OR = 1.413 (95% CI [1.106, 1.805], p=.006), and other mental health conditions, OR = 1.266 (95% CI [1.133, 1.414], p<.001), were associated with higher non-continuation.

Conclusion: Some mental health conditions elevate non-continuation risks, and addressing mental health may enhance student retention in higher education.

Item ID: 82584
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1360-0567
Keywords: tertiary education; university dropout; depression; anxiety; stress; mental health
Copyright Information: © 2024 the author(s). Published by Informa UK limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. his is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. the terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2024 22:57
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5203 Clinical and health psychology > 520302 Clinical psychology @ 34%
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education @ 33%
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320221 Psychiatry (incl. psychotherapy) @ 33%
SEO Codes: 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160102 Higher education @ 50%
20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200409 Mental health @ 50%
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