Student well-being

New student guide launched in an effort to help students navigate their mental health, as they face continued uncertainty and economic instability even as lockdown eases

Leading student health and well-being expert & GP Dr Dominique Thompson has t launched ‘Student well-being: a guide to building better mental health in university’ in partnership with student accommodation search engine Mystudenthalls.com, in an effort to help students navigate the increased pressures and uncertainties of university brought about by the pandemic. 

With many students wanting to make up for lost time on their return to university, the guide explores how students can safely deal with lockdown easing and discusses concerns such as social media dependency, damaging drinking habits, and financial stress. 

The guide includes information and advice on the following topics: 

  • Student loneliness
  • Money and financial wellbeing 
  • Social media
  • Alcohol 
  • Academic performance 
  • Student living 

Student Loneliness

Students are one of the groups reporting the highest levels of loneliness during the pandemic, with research showing almost half of those aged 18-24 said they have experienced loneliness living under lockdown. Lacking almost two year’s socialisation, there is some concern that next year’s intake could face increased loneliness, even with restrictions easing. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “Students will need continued support and universities should be starting to make provisions to allow for this, including preparing for increased demand on mental health services. [...] Students may also feel overwhelmed by the return to having lots of people in close proximity. Greater proximity to other students will not necessarily help students to feel less lonely, on the contrary, feelings of loneliness may be heightened.”

Money and financial wellbeing 

Money has become an even greater source of worry for UK students this past year. While regularly strapped for cash in normal circumstances, the pandemic has placed even greater challenges on students with a quarter of students losing their jobs or other sources of income due to the pandemic. Returning to uni will place many students in some difficult financial situations. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “The difficulty with being short of money is that for many students the options have been limited, and if they cant find a part time job they may take risks, such as with their health or safety, and feel pushed into taking part in medical trials for money, or even illegal activities.”

Social media

Social media became an intrinsic feature of the lockdown experience back in 2020, with young people having a prolific impact on apps such as TikTok. However, while social media has been used over the past year to enable students to communicate with friends and family, research has also suggested the damaging impacts of social media, with half of 14-24 year olds asked in one survey saying Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “Students may have got into bad habits over the past year, with some developing a dependency on their social media. Changing these more damaging behaviours will take time but failure to do so could potentially have a long-term impact both on students’ studies and their mental well-being in the coming years.”

Alcohol 

While drinking has always played a role in the traditional student experience, according to new research, three in 10 young adults (aged 18-34) are drinking at higher levels than before lockdown began, and are more likely than the rest of the population  to be drinking alone. Recognising when drinking habits have become damaging or controlling will be important for students as they return to university. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “Those suffering with mental health issues may have used alcohol as a coping mechanism during lockdown, so there is a potential danger that such students will continue to rely on drinking to counter the stress of university life”.

Academic performance 

The transition to online learning wasn’t smooth for everyone. Now, as well as continuing to deal with these immediate concerns about their day-to-day learning, students are also having to confront an uncertain job market which only adds to worries about their future prospects on leaving university. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “Remember, not all skills are developed in the classroom - try not to focus on what you may have lost but rather figure out what your experience during the pandemic has taught you both about yourself and the way you work”.

Student living 

With almost twice as many undergrads living with their parents than a year ago according to Save the Student, uni living arrangements have changed dramatically in the past year. However, as restrictions ease and students return to campus this is likely to bring with it its own set of challenges. 

Dr Dominique Thompson: “It is likely that there will be a greater demand for quieter student accommodation- with students looking to ease back into socialising after a year of isolation.”

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