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Working Paper No. 1435

PhD Studies Hurt Mental Health, But Less than Previously Feared

Working Paper
Keloharju, Matti, Samuli Knüpfer, Dagmar Müller and Joacim Tåg (2022). “PhD Studies Hurt Mental Health, But Less than Previously Feared”. IFN Working Paper No. 1435. Stockholm: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN).

Matti Keloharju, Samuli Knüpfer, Dagmar Müller, Joacim Tåg

We study the mental health of PhD students in Sweden using comprehensive administrative data on prescriptions, specialist care visits, hospitalizations, and causes of death. We find about 7% (5%) of PhD students receive medication or diagnosis for depression (anxiety) in a given year. These revalence rates are less than one-third of the earlier reported survey-based estimates, and even after adjusting for difference in methodology, 43% (72%) of the rates in the literature. Nevertheless, PhD students still fare worse than their peers not pursuing graduate studies. Our difference-in-differences research design can attribute at least 80% of this health disadvantage to the time in the PhD program. This deterioration suggests doctoral studies causally affect mental health.