Abstract: Estimating the Prevalence of Personality Disorders in University Student Populations

For my research, I plan to investigate the prevalence of personality disorder (PD) in university students.  My faculty mentor and I have been granted access to a dataset from the Healthy Minds Study, which is a nationally representative survey of over 150,000 university (undergraduate, graduate, professional) students. William & Mary is a member of this network, and we have already had a preliminary look at the self-reported PD prevalence rates from W&M’s approximately 1,800 student participants. My faculty mentor and I noticed that the prevalence estimate at W&M (under 1%) was markedly lower than corresponding estimates from national epidemiological data (9-11%) collected from structured diagnostic interviews (the gold standard for PD assessment). Such a discrepancy was not present for other psychiatric conditions like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. My plan for the summer is to perform these same analyses in the entire Healthy Minds Study database (growing our sample size from 1,800 to 150,000). I will compare the national self-reported PD prevalence rates to those derived from epidemiological studies, and, assuming the discrepancy between self-reported and interview-based diagnostic rates persists, attempt to explain why PD is so heavily under-diagnosed or under-reported. Although there is a wide body of research on PDs among adults, comparatively little research has addressed the question of PD prevalence among young people. This study will be, to my knowledge, the largest of its kind to date.

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