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By linking Education, Health, and Welfare data in the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP), our analysis looked at the impact of poor mental health on the likelihood of completing an undergraduate degree in Australia.
Completion of a bachelor degree is important to both the student and the government, as it provides lifelong benefits and prevents investment loss. Previous research has reported conflicting findings regarding whether students with mental ill health are less likely to complete a degree, with an estimated 25 per cent of young adult university students experiencing mental ill-health each year.
Objectives and Approach
Our research analysed national mental health service use and related pharmaceutical prescriptions linked with education data to determine the extent and effect of known mental health conditions on undergraduate student six-year completion rates. We followed a de-identified cohort of 120,000 students who commenced an undergraduate degree for the first time in 2011 for six years. Summary statistics and a binomial logit was used on a matched sample to confirm significance.
We found that students with a known mental health condition had a significantly lower six-year completion rate (58 per cent) than those students with no known mental health condition (71 per cent). By simulating a randomised control trial controlling for a wide range of demographics, we showed that these results held and that completion rates worsened with increasing severity of mental health conditions, as measured by usage of psychiatric services.
Integrated data assets such as MADIP help us better understand the interaction between student success and mental health conditions which in turn will help us improve policy and better evaluate programs.
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