Sustainable University Life (SUN-study) - The increasing mental health problems among students – a cohort study to identify modifiable risk factors for pain and mental illness


An increasing number of young adults are reporting mental health problems, often with co-occurring pain. Reports show that the proportion of young adults with psychiatric diagnoses or pharmacological treatment for mental health problems have increased with nearly 70% during the last 10 years. Regarding pain, 28% of men and 36% of women aged 16-24 report debilitating pain in the neck, and almost as many in the back. Reports on students show similar results. Alarming reports indicate that a considerable proportion of students have made suicide attempts. The reason for this increase is unknown.


To investigate if modifiable risk factors such as sleep quality, lifestyle, stress, screen time, sexual harassment, study environment and psychosocial working environment are independent risk factors for incident episodes of depression, anxiety and pain among university students. Also factors of importance for the prognosis and health promoting factors will be identified.


A prospective cohort study where 5000 full-time university students are followed with web-based surveys for one year.


If modifiable risk factors can be identified, such knowledge can be used to design and study preventive strategies targeting mental health problems and pain among university students.

Research Principles

Sophiahemmet University & Karolinska Institutet


FORTE Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare,  Sophiahemmet Foundation


Profile image

Eva E. Skillgate

Visiting Professor
Content reviewer:
Anna Persson