Els van Rooij

PhDepressed: An overview of PhD students’ mental health

In May 2018 we set out a large-scale survey about wellbeing among PhD students at the University of Groningen. More than 1,000 PhD students completed this survey, which provided us with very rich and insightful data on PhD students’ state of mind. In this talk I will present the most interesting findings: you will find out how many PhD students are at risk of developing depression and what kind of PhD students are especially at risk; what aspects of pursuing a PhD worsen someone’s mental health; how healthy or messed up the average PhD student’s work-life balance is; whether imposter syndrome is really a thing; how many PhD students can be considered alcoholics; etc. etc. To make sure this talk will not get too depressing, I will also show you some statistics about how engaged PhD students are in their work, about their confidence in themselves, and about how some PhD students with mental health problems have overcome their struggles. At the end I would like to open the discussion on what the university could do to help prevent and remediate mental health problems.  

Dr Els van Rooij is a postdoc at the Research Division Higher Education of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences of the University of Groningen. Since 2017 she is studying the PhD experience and everything related to it – from master’s students motives to pursue a PhD to supervisors’ supervision styles and experiences. The main question she is interested in is which aspects contribute to doctoral success, where success does not only refer to progress and (timely) completion, but also to satisfaction with the PhD experience and – most importantly – to staying sane while doing a PhD.