As a first year PhD student, jointly funded by the ESRC and MRC, I examining how financial, sociodemographic, and university-related factors may be associated with the mental health of students. In particular, I will measure students’ financial situation, including amount of debt, income, and stress about their finances; demographic variables such as ethnicity and sexual minority status; and characteristics of the university experience such as degree subject, accommodation type and workload. I will look at the relationship between these variables and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the consequences on academic and help-seeking outcomes.
My plan is to conduct an online survey of undergraduate students at UCL (and potentially additional universities where possible) at several time points throughout the academic year. In the meantime, I will also be conducting a systematic review of the literature around the association between financial variables and student mental health.
Whilst the volume of research on student mental health has increased in the past 10 years, very few studies have focused on factors and outcomes closely related to the university experience, which have important implications for policy at both a university and a governmental level. Some research exists regarding the impact of financial variables on student mental health, but they have so far been mostly cross-sectional in nature and findings have been mixed. Recent changes to student loans and grants also mean that much of the existing research in this area may no longer be applicable.
Improving mental health in students has huge implications for individuals – in the short term, for improving academic achievement and in the long term, for preventing mental health problems becoming chronic. At a university level, I am hopeful that this research could influence spending and allocation of mental health resources, and inform future initiatives. The university experience represents a unique opportunity to intervene at this critical time, particularly owing to the wide influence of institutions over occupational, social, housing and healthcare factors. Identifying both individual- and university-level risk factors for poor mental health would allow for a shift in focus towards prevention and early detection rather than treatment.
If you are interested in learning more about my work or wish to collaborate in some way, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or @TaylaMcCloud.
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