Depression contributes to school dropout

Armen Hareyan's picture

Depression and School Dropout

Of the several factors known to contribute to school dropout, we must now add feelings of depression to the list. This correlation was studied for the first time thanks to the research of Cintia Quiroga, PhD student at the Department of Psychology.

"Until now, studies on school dropout have mostly focussed on external behaviours such as indiscipline, delinquency, or narcotics consumption," explains Mrs. Quiroga. "Perhaps these behaviours were examined first because they are more disruptive, while being less inclined to look at internal problems such as depression."

For 15 months, the researcher studied 139 teenagers between 12 and 18-years-old, in disadvantaged areas with high risks of dropping out. At the end of the observation period, 39 students (28%) had dropped out. A dropout is defined by having missed three consecutive weeks of school without motive.

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When adjusting for socioeconomic factors, a depressed student is 1,66 times more likely to dropout than a non-depressive student in the same socioeconomic bracket. The higher the feelings of depression, the higher the risk of dropping out.

The most surprising results were observed when comparing boys and girls. More girls than boys dropped out of the study group: 36% of the 60 girls dropped out, while only 21% of the 79 boys.

"It's surprising and unusual," acknowledged the researcher seeing as statistically boys are more likely than girls to dropout before graduating high school. Even more surprising is the fact that depression was a stronger risk factor for boys than for girls. Non-depressive girls have a high probability dropout rate of 14%, while non-depressive boys have a 3% dropout rate.

The researcher expected the opposite results seeing as depression is more common with girls. In her opinion, these counterintuitive differences between boys and girls could result from her specific sample and not be possible to reproduce.