Social Theory & Health

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 311–325 | Cite as

Hysteresis, social congestion and debt: towards a sociology of mental health disorders in undergraduates

  • Sarah CantEmail author
Original Article


Sociologists have done much to show that the education system, whatever its meritocratic rationale, is associated with the generation and reproduction of fundamental inequalities. This paper explores how the recent epidemic of mental illness amongst undergraduate students can be seen as part of this dynamic. Reflecting on the dearth of sociological work in this area, the paper draws together the sociologies of inequality, education, and health and illness and explores the value of Bourdieusian framework for understanding the rise of mental health disorders in the undergraduate population. The suggestion is that whilst widening participation has extended educational opportunities, it has simultaneously created a context in which a state of hysteresis (Bourdieu in Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977) can emerge which, when combined with social congestion in the workplace (Brown in Br J Sociol Educ 34(5–6):678–700, 2013) and high levels of debt, serves to elevate rates of depression and anxiety.


Debt Bourdieu Hysteresis Mental health disorder Social congestion Undergraduates 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canterbury Christ Church UniversityCanterburyUK

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