MORE than one fifth of postgraduate researchers have planned their suicide, according to a wellbeing study from the University of Glasgow.

The research also showed that women and members of the LGBTQ+ community in the job were at higher risk of suffering from mental health issues.

Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) had considered suicide or self-harm in the past two weeks, with 22% saying they had actually planned their suicide, and 5% had already attempted to take their own lives at some point in the past.

Jelena Milicev, a PHD student at the University of Glasgow, was the study’s primary author.

Milicev said: “Our results suggest that postgraduate researchers (PGRs) who are living with maladaptive perfectionism and workaholism are much more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression, insomnia and generally low wellbeing.

“Female, transgender, non-binary, homosexual, bisexual and queer PGRs are generally more likely to report these kinds of mental health problems.”

She went on to say that the study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests PGRs more frequently deal with mental health issues than the national average.

Elsewhere in the research, 41% of respondents said they lived with anxiety, and 20% with severe anxiety. Depression affected 40%, and severe or moderately severe depression 20%.

Women had higher levels of anxiety and depression than men, as did those who reported traits of workaholism and perfectionism.

The research also investigated the causes for poor wellbeing.

Milicev added: “On the other hand, we can also see clearly that PGRs who have access to good social support networks, who feel they are making progress and are able to prepare appropriately, and who work in a positive departmental atmosphere, with supportive supervisors, are likely to have better mental health outcomes.”

Almost half of PGRs have suffered from insomnia with most respondents blaming it on lack of productivity.

Dr Maria Gardani, who led the study at Glasgow University, said: “We believe this study could provide valuable insight for UK universities on how they can help shape better mental health outcomes for their postgraduate researchers.

“The results were gathered before Covid-19 affected campuses across the UK, so it’s possible that existing issues may have been exacerbated by the additional stresses of the pandemic.”

Gardani has expressed hope that the research will encourage change throughout universities for PGR work life.

She added: “Renewed institutional efforts to promote equality, diversity, resilience, integration and work-life balance for PGRs could go a long way to addressing the kinds of mental health problems this study reveals.”

The findings came from a survey of 479 PGRs across 48 British universities.

Prof Sharon Simpson, Dr Mark McCann and Prof Stephany Biello also contributed to the study.

The paper is titled “Evaluating Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers: Prevalence and Contributing Factors” and was published in Current Psychology.

Where to get help

SAMH gives mental health information and can direct you to local services. Call 0141 530 1000 or email

If you need to talk, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or see

Families who need support after being bereaved by suicide can contact PETAL on 01698 324 502 or email

Call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email the charity at