Financial stress and debt in clinical psychology doctoral students

Erica Szkody*, Steven Hobaica, Sarah Owens, Jennifer Boland, Jason J. Washburn, Debora Bell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introdution: Few studies examine the financial burden of clinical psychology doctoral programs and its impact on achievements, stress, and mental health. Objectives: The current study sought to better understand students' financial stress and debt, and how financial stress may impact their mental health and the attainment of personal and professional milestones. Method: Students (N = 912) completed an online survey assessing demographics, sources of income and expenditures, mental health, and milestones. Results: After accounting for yearly inflation, stipends have not kept pace with the average cost of living in the United States. Over one-third of students indicated that they had no expendable pretax income after paying for their education and typical living expenses. Additionally, over 80% reported acquiring additional debt in graduate school to offset their living expenses. Financial concerns were associated with delays in major life milestones (e.g., buying a car/house, getting married/starting a family, having children), as well as avoiding medical (34.2%) or mental (41.4%) health care, with 17.5% of participants experiencing a health crisis they could not afford while in graduate school. Financial stress was associated with an increase in time spent thinking about finances, higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms, and decreased sleep. Conclusion: Many clinical psychology doctoral students experience financial stress and are often unable to afford basic educational, personal living, and health care expenses, likely worsening mental health. Academic programs and leadership are encouraged to increase student stipends, improve financial transparency, provide access to health care, and alleviate financial stress and debt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-853
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • clinical psychology
  • debt
  • financial stress
  • graduate students
  • income

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology


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