Demands and wellbeing in university students: A study of undergraduates at a post-92 UK university
Transition into and through university can be a demanding and problematic experience that directly impacts student’s wellbeing (Hughes and Spanner, 2019). Underpinned by a stress-based theoretical framework (DRIVE model; Mark and Smith, 2008), adopting a sequential mixed methods approach, this thesis investigated how demands affect students’ wellbeing across the first two years of their Undergraduate Degree (UD). Four empirical studies were complete. Study one used quantitative methods to examine how demands, resources and individual indifferences impacted student’s wellbeing following their transition into University. Study two built on this via a qualitative exploration of student’s transitional experiences. Main findings across these two studies were that social demands had the greatest impact on students’ wellbeing during their transition to University. Following this sequential approach, the research moved onto a more longitudinal design to capture how demands/wellbeing change over time. Study three adopted a repeated measures design that involved students undertaking a self-report survey on four occasions across the first two years of their UD. The main findings revealed students’ wellbeing significantly decreased between year one and two and the demands experienced differed significantly between years. The final study qualitatively explored the key findings across studies one, two and three through an interpretative phenomenological approach. Here, findings indicated the positive/negative impact social demands had on students and how their perception/individual differences affected their wellbeing. Holistically, the results of the thesis suggested social demands were the most impactful on student’s wellbeing and several individual difference factors impacted the stress-wellbeing relationship (e.g., perceived stress, psychological balance). The findings also demonstrated how demands changed across the student lifecycle and that support should differ for students throughout their journey. Conceptually, the main implications from the research showed the stress-wellbeing relationship is complex and must consider: the most impactful demands students face; and, how individual differences affect wellbeing. Practically, the findings provided insight into which demands are significant at different timepoints during the first two years of an UD. Therefore, the findings/contributions of this thesis have the potential to enhance how Universities support students during their transition to University and between years.
- School of Sport and Health Sciences