The mental health of PhD students is the main reason I’m not interested in doing one. There are lots of surveys showing terrible symptoms, e.g. this one where 36% of PhD students had sought treatment for depression or anxiety related to their PhD. That’s nearly 5x higher than the baseline 8% of Americans. You can find many similar surveys, and my anecdotal experience of asking PhD students whether they’re enjoying the experience has only confirmed this dismal picture.
Hm. I wonder about selection effects. PhD students might be more aware of mental health issues, and PhDs often come with some level of access to mental health services and occur in cities where those services are available. PhD students are also typically at an age when the baseline rate of anxiety and depression is significantly higher—I see figures in the 20% range (although this is for having anxiety, not seeking treatment). It’s natural that whatever anxiety and depression they’d feel would be centered on their main focus in life.
I wouldn’t be too surprised if anxiety and depression are somewhat elevated among PhD students as compared to their peers with a similar socioeconomic status, age, and IQ, but I suspect that that 36% vs. 8% comparison might be somewhat misleading.