GuidesResearch methods55 research questions about mental health

55 research questions about mental health

Last updated

11 March 2024

Author

Claire Bonneau

Mental health and related conditions are a hot-button healthcare topic in 2024. With an estimated one in five Americans living with a mental health condition, ongoing research into the causes, treatment options, and possible triggers has never been more necessary.

Research in the mental health space helps fill knowledge gaps and create a fuller picture for patients, healthcare professionals, and policymakers. Over time, these efforts result in better quality care and more accessible treatment options for those who need them.

Use this list of mental health research questions to kickstart your next project or assignment and give yourself the best chance of producing successful and fulfilling research.

Why does mental health research matter?

Mental health research is an essential area of study. It includes any research that focuses on topics related to people’s mental and emotional well-being.

As a complex health topic that, despite the prevalence of mental health conditions, still has an unending number of unanswered questions, the need for thorough research into causes, triggers, and treatment options is clear.

Research into this heavily stigmatized and often misunderstood topic is needed to find better ways to support people struggling with mental health conditions. Understanding what causes them is another crucial area of study, as it enables individuals, companies, and policymakers to make well-informed choices that can help prevent illnesses like anxiety and depression.

How to choose a strong mental health research topic

As one of the most important parts of beginning a new research project, picking a topic that is intriguing, unique, and in demand is a great way to get the best results from your efforts.

Mental health is a blanket term with many niches and specific areas to explore. But, no matter which direction you choose, follow the tips below to ensure you pick the right topic.

Prioritize your interests and skills

While a big part of research is exploring a new and exciting topic, this exploration is best done within a topic or niche in which you are interested and experienced.

Research is tough, even at the best of times. To combat fatigue and increase your chances of pushing through to the finish line, we recommend choosing a topic that aligns with your personal interests, training, or skill set.

Topical and current research questions are hot commodities because they offer solutions and insights into culturally and socially relevant problems.

Depending on the scope and level of freedom you have with your upcoming research project, choosing a topic that’s trending in your area of study is one way to get support and funding (if you need it).

Not every study can be based on a cutting-edge topic, but this can be a great way to explore a new space and create baseline research data for future studies.

Assess your resources and timeline

Before choosing a super ambitious and exciting research topic, consider your project restrictions.

You’ll need to think about things like your research timeline, access to resources and funding, and expected project scope when deciding how broad your research topic will be. In most cases, it’s better to start small and focus on a specific area of study.

Broad research projects are expensive and labor and resource-intensive. They can take years or even decades to complete. Before biting off more than you can chew, consider your scope and find a research question that fits within it.

Read up on the latest research

Finally, once you have narrowed in on a specific topic, you need to read up on the latest studies and published research. A thorough research assessment is a great way to gain some background context on your chosen topic and stops you from repeating a study design. Using the existing work as your guide, you can explore more specific and niche questions to provide highly beneficial answers and insights.

Trending research questions for post-secondary students

As a post-secondary student, finding interesting research questions that fit within the scope of your classes or resources can be challenging. But, with a little bit of effort and pre-planning, you can find unique mental health research topics that will meet your class or project requirements.

Examples of research topics for post-secondary students include the following:

  • How does school-related stress impact a person’s mental health?

  • To what extent does burnout impact mental health in medical students?

  • How does chronic school stress impact a student’s physical health?

  • How does exam season affect the severity of mental health symptoms?

  • Is mental health counseling effective for students in an acute mental crisis?

Research questions about anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are two of the most commonly spoken about mental health conditions. You might assume that research about these conditions has already been exhausted or that it’s no longer in demand. That’s not the case at all.

According to a 2022 survey by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.5% of American adults struggle with regular feelings of worry, nervousness, and anxiety, and 5% struggle with regular feelings of depression. These percentages amount to millions of lives affected, meaning new research into these conditions is essential.

If either of these topics interests you, here are a few trending research questions you could consider:

  • Does gender play a role in the early diagnosis of anxiety?

  • How does untreated anxiety impact quality of life?

  • What are the most common symptoms of anxiety in working professionals aged 20–29?

  • To what extent do treatment delays impact quality of life in patients with undiagnosed anxiety?

  • To what extent does stigma affect the quality of care received by people with anxiety?

Here are some examples of research questions about depression:

  • Does diet play a role in the severity of depression symptoms?

  • Can people have a genetic predisposition to developing depression?

  • How common is depression in work-from-home employees?

  • Does mood journaling help manage depression symptoms?

  • What role does exercise play in the management of depression symptoms?

Research questions about personality disorders

Personality disorders are complex mental health conditions tied to a person’s behaviors, sense of self, and how they interact with the world around them. Without a diagnosis and treatment, people with personality disorders are more likely to develop negative coping strategies during periods of stress and adversity, which can impact their quality of life and relationships.

There’s no shortage of specific research questions in this category. Here are some examples of research questions about personality disorders that you could explore:

  • What environments are more likely to trigger the development of a personality disorder?

  • What barriers impact access to care for people with personality disorders?

  • To what extent does undiagnosed borderline personality disorder impact a person’s ability to build relationships?

  • How does group therapy impact symptom severity in people with schizotypal personality disorder?

  • What is the treatment compliance rate of people with paranoid personality disorder?

Research questions about substance use disorders

“Substance use disorders” is a blanket term for treatable behaviors and patterns within a person’s brain that lead them to become dependent on illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications. It’s one of the most stigmatized mental health categories.

The severity of a person’s symptoms and how they impact their ability to participate in their regular daily life can vary significantly from person to person. But, even in less severe cases, people with a substance use disorder display some level of loss of control due to their need to use the substance they are dependent on.

This is an ever-evolving topic where research is in hot demand. Here are some example research questions:

  • To what extent do meditation practices help with craving management?

  • How effective are detox centers in treating acute substance use disorder?

  • Are there genetic factors that increase a person’s chances of developing a substance use disorder?

  • How prevalent are substance use disorders in immigrant populations?

  • To what extent do prescription medications play a role in developing substance use disorders?

Research questions about mental health treatments

Treatments for mental health, pharmaceutical therapies in particular, are a common topic for research and exploration in this space.

Besides the clinical trials required for a drug to receive FDA approval, studies into the efficacy, risks, and patient experiences are essential to better understand mental health therapies.

These types of studies can easily become large in scope, but it’s possible to conduct small cohort research on mental health therapies that can provide helpful insights into the actual experiences of the people receiving these treatments.

Here are some questions you might consider:

  • What are the long-term effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for patients with severe depression?

  • How common is insomnia as a side effect of oral mental health medications?

  • What are the most common causes of non-compliance for mental health treatments?

  • How long does it take for patients to report noticeable changes in symptom severity after starting injectable mental health medications?

  • What issues are most common when weaning a patient off of an anxiety medication?

Controversial mental health research questions

If you’re interested in exploring more cutting-edge research topics, you might consider one that’s “controversial.”

Depending on your own personal values, you might not think many of these topics are controversial. In the context of the research environment, this depends on the perspectives of your project lead and the desires of your sponsors. These topics may not align with the preferred subject matter.

That being said, that doesn’t make them any less worth exploring. In many cases, it makes them more worthwhile, as they encourage people to ask questions and think critically.

Here are just a few examples of “controversial” mental health research questions:

  • To what extent do financial crises impact mental health in young adults?

  • How have climate concerns impacted anxiety levels in young adults?

  • To what extent do psychotropic drugs help patients struggling with anxiety and depression?

  • To what extent does political reform impact the mental health of LGBTQ+ people?

  • What mental health supports should be available for the families of people who opt for medically assisted dying?

Research questions about socioeconomic factors & mental health

Socioeconomic factors—like where a person grew up, their annual income, the communities they are exposed to, and the amount, type, and quality of mental health resources they have access to—significantly impact overall health.

This is a complex and multifaceted issue. Choosing a research question that addresses these topics can help researchers, experts, and policymakers provide more equitable and accessible care over time.

Examples of questions that tackle socioeconomic factors and mental health include the following:

  • How does sliding scale pricing for therapy increase retention rates?

  • What is the average cost to access acute mental health crisis care in [a specific region]?

  • To what extent does a person’s environment impact their risk of developing a mental health condition?

  • How does mental health stigma impact early detection of mental health conditions?

  • To what extent does discrimination affect the mental health of LGBTQ+ people?

Research questions about the benefits of therapy

Therapy, whether that’s in groups or one-to-one sessions, is one of the most commonly utilized resources for managing mental health conditions. It can help support long-term healing and the development of coping mechanisms.

Yet, despite its popularity, more research is needed to properly understand its benefits and limitations.

Here are some therapy-based questions you could consider to inspire your own research:

  • In what instances does group therapy benefit people more than solo sessions?

  • How effective is cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with severe anxiety?

  • After how many therapy sessions do people report feeling a better sense of self?

  • Does including meditation reminders during therapy improve patient outcomes?

  • To what extent has virtual therapy improved access to mental health resources in rural areas?

Adolescents are a particularly interesting group for mental health research due to the prevalence of early-onset mental health symptoms in this age group.

As a time of self-discovery and change, puberty brings plenty of stress, anxiety, and hardships, all of which can contribute to worsening mental health symptoms.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to support this age group with mental health, here are some examples of questions you could explore:

  • Does parenting style impact anxiety rates in teens?

  • How early should teenagers receive mental health treatment?

  • To what extent does cyberbullying impact adolescent mental health?

  • What are the most common harmful coping mechanisms explored by teens?

  • How have smartphones affected teenagers’ self-worth and sense of self?

Research questions about social media and mental health

Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) have significantly impacted day-to-day communication. However, despite their numerous benefits and uses, they have also become a significant source of stress, anxiety, and self-worth issues for those who use them.

These platforms have been around for a while now, but research on their impact is still in its infancy. Are you interested in building knowledge about this ever-changing topic? Here are some examples of social media research questions you could consider:

  • To what extent does TikTok’s mental health content impact people’s perception of their health?

  • How much non-professional mental health content is created on social media platforms?

  • How has social media content increased the likelihood of a teen self-identifying themselves with ADHD or autism?

  • To what extent do social media photoshopped images impact body image and self-worth?

  • Has social media access increased feelings of anxiety and dread in young adults?

Mental health research is incredibly important

As you have seen, there are so many unique mental health research questions worth exploring. Which options are piquing your interest?

Whether you are a university student considering your next paper topic or a professional looking to explore a new area of study, mental health is an exciting and ever-changing area of research to get involved with.

Your research will be valuable, no matter how big or small. As a niche area of healthcare still shrouded in stigma, any insights you gain into new ways to support, treat, or identify mental health triggers and trends are a net positive for millions of people worldwide.

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