Research Article

Prevalence of and institutional factors associated with depression among undergraduate students at Gulu University

Lucas Goodgame Anyayo, Amir Kabunga*, Ponsiano Okalo, Brenda Apili and Viola Nalwoga

Published: 11 March, 2022 | Volume 6 - Issue 1 | Pages: 001-006

Background: Many institutional factors predispose University students to mental health issues, including depression. However, with no central database for depression in Uganda, literature on depression and associated institutional factors among undergraduate students is scarce. This study examined the prevalence of and institutional factors associated with depression among undergraduate students at Gulu University.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey among 452 undergraduate students at Gulu University in the academic year 2018/2019 in February and March 2019. A stratified simple random sampling was used to identify the participants. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data. Descriptive statistics, including mean and frequency, were used. We conducted a bivariate analysis to determine the association between variables employing Pearson’s chi-square test or Fischer’s exact test. We conducted a multivariate analysis with factors that had significant P-values of less than 0.05.
Results: The average age of the respondents was 22.4 (SD - 2.4), more than half (53.1%) were male and 38.50% were in the second year. The results show that 31.19% reported depression. After controlling for age and sex, the results showed that there was a statistically significant correlation between depression and faculty (aOR - 1.15), year of study (aOR - 0.77), happiness with the course (aOR - 0-0.49), satisfaction with academic performance (aOR - 0.45), and satisfaction with academic quality (aOR - 0.61). The results indicated that the predictors of depression among undergraduate students were faculty, year of study, satisfaction with academic performance, and satisfaction with academic quality. 
Conclusion: A substantial proportion of Gulu University undergraduate students reported high levels of depression. The results, therefore, showed that depression in undergraduate students is an identifiable disorder that needs diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. Faculty, year of study, satisfaction with academic performance, satisfaction with academic quality were predictors of depression. Thus there is an urgent need for counseling, psychoeducation, and preventive mental health services as an essential part of the university setup.

Read Full Article HTML DOI: 10.29328/journal.ida.1001029 Cite this Article Read Full Article PDF


  1. Fruehwirth JC, Biswas S, Perreira KM. The Covid-19 pandemic and mental health of first-year college students: Examining the effect of Covid-19 stressors using longitudinal data. Plos One. 2021; 16: e0247999. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33667243/
  2. Health CfCM. Center for collegiate mental health 2018 annual report. Center for Collegiate Mental Health University Park;
  3. Rotenstein LS, Ramos MA, Torre M, Segal JB, Peluso MJ, et al. Prevalence of depression, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation among medical students: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2016; 316: 2214-2236. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27923088/
  4. Joseph D. Prevalence of depression among pre-university college students in an urban area of South India. Int J Curr Res. 2011; 3: 439-442.
  5. Olum R, Nakwagala FN, Odokonyero R. Prevalence and factors associated with depression among medical students at makerere University, Uganda. Adv Med Educ Prac. 2020; 11: 853. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33209071/
  6. Association AP. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®: Am Psychiatric Pub; 2013.
  7. Seki T, Hamazaki K, Natori T, Inadera H. Relationship between internet addiction and depression among Japanese university students. J Affect Disord. 2019; 256: 668-672. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31299448/
  8. Dyrbye LN, Harper W, Durning SJ, Moutier C, Thomas MR, et al. Patterns of distress in US medical students. Med Teacher. 2011; 33: 834-839. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21942482/
  9. Kaggwa MM, Muwanguzi M, Nduhuura E, Kajjimu J, Arinaitwe I, et al. Suicide among Ugandan university students: evidence from media reports for 2010–2020. B J Psych Int. 2021; 18: 63-67. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34382950/
  10. Puthran R, Zhang MW, Tam WW, Ho RC. Prevalence of depression amongst medical students: A meta‐ Med Educ. 2016; 50: 456-468. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26995484/
  11. Rubin LE. Student mental health in a chiropractic university setting. J Chiropr Educ. 2008; 22: 12-16. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18483587/
  12. Othman N, Ahmad F, El Morr C, Ritvo P. Perceived impact of contextual determinants on depression, anxiety and stress: a survey with university students. Int J Mental Health Sys. 2019; 13: 1-9.
  13. Sokratous S, Merkouris A, Middleton N, Karanikola M. The prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of depressive symptoms among Cypriot university students: a cross-sectional descriptive co-relational study. BMC Psychiatry. 2014; 14: 1-15.
  14. Wahed WYA, Hassan SK. Prevalence and associated factors of stress, anxiety and depression among medical Fayoum University students. Alexandria J Med. 2017; 53: 77-84.
  15. Abdelhafiz AS, Alorabi M. Social stigma: the hidden threat of COVID-19. Fronti Public Health. 2020: 429. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32984238/
  16. Nakimuli-Mpungu E, Musisi S, Wamala K, Okello J, Ndyanabangi S, et al. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of group support psychotherapy delivered by trained lay health workers for depression treatment among people with HIV in Uganda: a cluster-randomised trial. Lancet Glob Health. 2020; 8: e387-e398. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32035035/
  17. Dyson R, Renk K. Freshmen adaptation to university life: Depressive symptoms, stress, and coping. J Clin Psychol. 2006; 62: 1231-1244. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16810671/
  18. Krejcie RV, Morgan DW. Determining sample size for research activities. Educ Psychological Measure. 1970; 30: 607-610.
  19. Tsai AC. Reliability and validity of depression assessment among persons with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 1999; 2014; 66: 503. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24853307/
  20. Valle R, Sánchez E, Perales A. Depressive symptomatology and alcohol-related problems during the academic training of medical students. Rev Peru Med Exp Salud Publica. 2013; 30: 54-57. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23612813/
  21. Aniebue PN, Onyema GO. Prevalence of depressive symptoms among Nigerian medical undergraduates. Trop Doct. 2008; 38: 157-158. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18628542/
  22. Gold JA, Hu X, Huang G, Li WZ, Wu YF, Gao S, et al. Medical student depression and its correlates across three international medical schools. World J Psychiatry. 2019; 9: 65-77. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31799151/
  23. Lovell GP, Nash K, Sharman R, Lane BR. A cross‐sectional investigation of depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms and health‐behavior participation in A ustralian university students. Nursing Health Sci. 2015; 17: 134-142. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24799077/
  24. Rizvi F, Qureshi A, Rajput AM, Afzal M. Prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress (by DASS scoring system) among medical students in Islamabad, Pakistan. Br J Med Med Res. 2015; 8: 69-75.
  25. Abdallah AR, Gabr HM. Depression, anxiety and stress among first year medical students in an Egyptian public university. Int Res J Med Med Sci. 2014; 2: 11-19.
  26. Ngasa SN, Sama CB, Dzekem BS, Nforchu KN, Tindong M, et al. Prevalence and factors associated with depression among medical students in Cameroon: a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry. 2017; 17: 1-7. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28599624/
  27. Dafaalla M, Farah A, Bashir S, Khalil A, Abdulhamid R, et al. Depression, anxiety, and stress in sudanese medical students: a cross sectional study on role of quality of life and social support. Am J Educ Res. 2016; 4: 937-942.
  28. Opoku-Acheampong A, Kretchy IA, Acheampong F, Afrane BA, Ashong S, et al. Perceived stress and quality of life of pharmacy students in University of Ghana. BMC Res Notes. 2017; 10: 115. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28253905/
  29. Worku D, Dirriba AB, Wordofa B, Fetensa G. Perceived stress, depression, and associated factors among undergraduate health science students at Arsi University in 2019 in Oromia, Ethiopia. Psychiatry J. 2020; 2020.
  30. Pérez-Rojas AE, Lockard AJ, Bartholomew TT, Janis RA, Carney DM, et al. Presenting concerns in counseling centers: The view from clinicians on the ground. Psychol Serv. 2017; 14: 416-427. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29120200/
  31. Deroma VM, Leach JB, Leverett JP. The relationship between depression and college academic performance. College Student J. 2009; 43: 325-335.
  32. Mihăilescu A, Diaconescu L, Ciobanu A, Donisan T, Mihailescu C. The impact of anxiety and depression on academic performance in undergraduate medical students. Eur Psychiatry. 2016; 33: s284-s.
  33. Lugata S, Elinisa M, Doshi B, Kashuta RA, Hango S, et al. Symptoms and predictors of depression among university students in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania: a cross-sectional study. J Ment Health. 2021; 30: 255-262. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32697163/
  34. Melese B, Bayu B, Wondwossen F, Tilahun K, Lema S, et al. Prevalence of mental distress and associated factors among Hawassa University medical students, Southern Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study. BMC Res Notes. 2016; 9: 485. PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5100187/
  35. Sreeramareddy CT, Shankar PR, Binu V, Mukhopadhyay C, Ray B, et al. Psychological morbidity, sources of stress and coping strategies among undergraduate medical students of Nepal. BMC Med Educ. 2007; 7: 26. PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17678553/
  36. Alim SAHM, Rabbani MG, Karim E, Mullick MSI, Al Mamun A, et al. Assessment of depression, anxiety and stress among first year MBBS students of a public medical college, Bangladesh. Bangladesh J Psychiatry. 2015; 29: 23-29.


Similar Articles

Recently Viewed

Read More

Most Viewed

Read More