“Post-graduation depression” describes depressive symptoms that occur after a person finishes college or university. Although it is not a medically recognized term, it is an experience many young adults may relate to.
After many years of education, people may find adjusting to life after university challenging.
Over the past decade, depression rates among young adults have risen to double the rate among the general population. While not all young adults who attend college experience depression after graduating, this transition may serve as a trigger, as it can involve a variety of social, emotional, and financial challenges.
This article will discuss post-graduation depression, including its potential causes, ways to cope, and treatment.
Although the term does not exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), evidence suggests many people experience post-graduation depression.
There appears to be a distinct pattern of young adults developing depression after finishing their last year of college. This may be due to a combination of factors that can have a significant impact on mental health.
Causes and factors that may lead a person to experience post-graduation depression include:
Major life changes, such as changes in living conditions or a new job, can cause distress. In the same way, the transition period after leaving college can be stressful due to the many uncertainties and changes in circumstances it can create.
Having difficulty finding a job in a challenging economy can be discouraging and impact a person’s self-confidence. Evidence from 2010 suggests that the likelihood of depression in emerging adults at that time was roughly
Loss of a social network
After completing university, people may begin to lose social connections made over several years. This may cause them to experience social isolation, which can lead to symptoms of depression.
According to research, most mental health conditions present by age 25 or earlier.
Lack of structure
According to Northwestern Medicine, an effective routine can help reduce stress and improve mental health and relaxation.
Some people may experience a lack of structure in their daily life after college and before finding a job. No longer having a set schedule and specific classes and events to attend can be a difficult adjustment. This may cause a person to experience symptoms of depression.
World events can have a significant impact on mental health. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a
A range of these factors can combine to contribute to or aggravate the symptoms a person living with post-graduation depression may experience. For example, a lack of motivation can make it more challenging for new graduates to find a job, an already difficult process. This can cause feelings of failure, which may worsen depression symptoms.
Additionally, a person may try to manage these symptoms by self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs. In some cases, this strategy may lead a person to develop dependence or an alcohol use disorder.
However, many treatments and supports are available for people who experience any of the above symptoms.
There are different types of depression with specific symptoms.
Some symptoms that typically apply to every type of depression include:
- feelings of despair, hopelessness, or pessimism
- a severe lack of motivation or loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
- difficulties with concentration, memory, making decisions, or fulfilling everyday tasks
- difficulty sleeping
- changes in appetite
- decreased energy or feelings of fatigue
- suicidal ideation
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
There are a number of options available to help a person manage their mental health. For example, a combination of exercise and mindful practices with medication and talking therapy can be beneficial.
Post-graduation depression can have its specific challenges. To help manage their health during this period, people can try:
- Taking care of basic needs: It is important for a person to try to plan and prepare for the next period of their life, including meeting basic needs such as accommodation and food. People can then focus on other aspects that may improve their quality of life.
- Developing a support network: Maintaining social interaction is important for well-being. As such, people may consider reconnecting with old friends or trying to meet new people at local meetups.
- Creating a daily routine involving exercise: Preserving structure is crucial to help maintain mental health and wellness. Taking regular light exercise can also be beneficial for mental health.
A person approaching the end of their education may want to consider the following strategies to manage potential stressors and help prevent post-grad depression:
- exploring career opportunities or additional schooling ahead of finishing
- finding accommodation, whether this involves returning home or to a new location
- developing a plan to create a support system
- connecting with mental health counselors to discuss emotional changes during this transitional period
- developing a daily schedule to help manage mental health
Treatments for post-graduation depression will typically be similar to options for other types of depression and can include:
- medications, such as antidepressants
- psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy
- psychoeducation and support groups
- brain stimulating therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation
- complementary and alternative options, such as exercise
Many schools offer counseling services to students. A person may wish to consider the options their university provides.
However, other services are available if a person does not feel comfortable doing so or is no longer at university. The following organizations can provide free and confidential advice and support:
- Lifeline Chat: The online chat service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK) to speak with someone from this national network of local crisis centers.
- Samaritans: This nonprofit organization offers emotional support to anyone experiencing feelings of depression or loneliness or considering suicide. Call or text 877-870-4673 (HOPE).
Post-graduation depression refers to depressive symptoms a person may experience after finishing college or university. This transition period can be difficult and may present numerous challenges that can negatively impact mental health.
Living with depression can be extremely challenging, particularly during a time that involves a lot of life changes. However, help is available. With effective treatment, a person can manage their symptoms and recover. This may combine medication, therapy, and alternative treatments, such as exercise and social support.
It is best for anyone experiencing depression to speak with a doctor or mental health professional for support and advice.