Behavior problems, not depression, are linked to lower grades for depressed adolescents, according to a study in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
"Behavior problems including attention issues, delinquency, and substance use are associated with diminished achievement, but depression is not," said the study's lead author Jane D. McLeod, a sociology professor and an associate dean at Indiana University. "Certainly, there are depressed youths who have trouble in school, but it's likely because they are also using substances, engaging in delinquent activities, or have attention issues."
Titled, "Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems, and Academic Achievement," McLeod's study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which followed thousands of U.S. adolescents from their middle and high school years through their transition to early adulthood. McLeod's analysis focuses on students who were in high school when Add Health began in 1994. To determine academic achievement, McLeod considered the high school GPAs of students after the first wave of Add Health in 1994 and the highest educational degrees they received by 2008-2009.
"There's a fairly sizable literature that links depression in high school to diminished academic achievement," said McLeod, who co-authored the study with Ryotaro Uemura, a project assistant professor in the International Center at Keio University in Japan, and Shawna Rohrman, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Indiana University. "The argument we make in our study is what's really happening is that youths who are depressed also have other problems as well, and it's those other problems that are adversely affecting their achievement."