Background: The transition from adolescence to adulthood is associated with stressful adaptation experiences that may increase symptoms of depression. We explored the prevalence and sex differences of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in freshmen Latino college students in Puerto Rico, and identified stressful life events that could contribute to symptoms of depression. Methods: Two thousand one hundred sixty-three freshmen college students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) public education system were assessed for depression symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and stressful life events using open questions. Results: Nine percent of the sample reported depression symptoms at a moderate or severe level (BDI>20). Chi square analyses revealed a significantly higher prevalence for three of the stressful life events in females than males: relocation (10.2% females vs. 7.3% males; X(2) (1)=4.13, p=.042), break-up of a significant relationship (25.3% females vs. 17.8% males; X(2) (1)=13.76, p<.001), and illness (11.2% females vs. 7.3% males; X(2) (1)=7.23, p=.007). The model that best explained the variance of BDI scores among females was the presence of suicide risk, relationship break-up, illness, and relocation for college, whereas for males a similar model without the relationship break-up variable resulted in a better fit. Conclusions: Freshmen college students present a broad range of depression symptoms and certain stressful life events are associated with an increased prevalence of depression symptoms. Early detection of depression and tailored prevention programs should be developed to improve both mental health and academic performance among the college population. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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