Background: Students experiencing psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, and stress, may face problems in managing their educational activities. Objective: The main purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and correlates psychological distress among undergraduate Madda Walabu University students. Design: cross-sectional design was employed. Participants: Robe and Goba campus Madda Walabu University students were the aggregate populations of the study. The total number of population was 11,718. Of 11718 students, 384 students were obtained by using proportionate stratified random sampling technique using colleges as strata. Instrument: DAS-S-depression, anxiety, stress scale, and questionnaires developed by the researchers to identify the determinant factors of depression, anxiety and stress were used to collect the data. Analysis: Quantitatively the collected data was analyzed by using percentage, Pearson correlation, and mean scores and standard deviation. Result and interpretation: Among the participants, 42.1 % of the students were under depressive symptoms (13.0% mild level; 12.8% moderate level; 9.9% severe level and the rest 5.5% under extremely severe level). In terms of anxiety, 48.1 % of respondents score high anxiety level. Specifically, 6.3%, were mild; 19 % were a moderate level of anxiety; 15.1 % and 8% of the students were under severe and extremely severe level respectively. 50.3 % of the respondents were under stressful situations (19.3% mild, 21.6% moderate; 7.8% severe and 1.6% were under extremely severe condition). In the Pearson correlation there is a significant negative correlation between depression, anxiety, and stress with academic achievement. Ten identified and accepted determinant factors that led students to psychological distress were Substance use; chronic diseases; conflicts in terms of religious issues among students; conflicts in terms of racial issues among students; family functioning problem; poor study habits; excessive pressure or coercion from parents; excessive pressure or coercion from teachers; difficulty in making friend, and unfair assessment of instructor’s due difference in ethnicity. Recommendation: The results suggest that the early prevention of anxiety, depression, and stress is critical since, if left untreated, it can have serious consequences on students' future health and career possibilities.
Key terms: academic achievement, anxiety, depression, psychological distress, stress