From education to employment

How being constantly connected can support mental health at university

Despite social media’s bad reputation when it comes to the mental health of young people, new research suggests that it can actually aid the transition process for university students. 

Broadband and utilities provider, Glide, teamed up with Dr Lisa Webster, psychology senior lecturer at Leeds Trinity University to show that social media can have a positive impact on Gen Z. 

Living life online and being constantly connected is part of day to day life for students in 2019, but is instant access to the internet actually beneficial to aiding the university experience and having a positive impact on student’s wellbeing?

To find out just how students use the internet, utilities and broadband provider Glide conducted research using YouGov Profiles, which surveyed 11,484 students taking part in their first university degree, and worked with psychology lecturer Dr Lisa Webster to discuss the impact of the amount of time students spend online.

Unsurprisingly, mobile phones were the main source of internet access, with 83% regularly using their smartphone to get online, closely followed by a laptop (72%). Only a quarter (26%) of students use a desktop for internet access, hinting that the need for constant access to the internet and a strong Wi-Fi connection is key for students when considering their technology and accommodation needs.

Email, browsing the internet and scrolling through social networks were the top activities for students, with data heavy activities such as streaming and downloading also being a regular occurence.

The top internet uses for students were:

Email (75%)

Generally browsing the internet (74%)

Accessing social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) (73%)

Messaging (e.g., Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) (67%)

Online banking (63%)

Streaming of games, movies, TV shows, videos, media, etc. (61%)

Buying/ browsing goods or services online (e.g. books, CDs, tickets, groceries) (59%)

Accessing news and sport websites (49%)

Downloading of games, movies, TV shows, videos, media, etc. (38%)

Uploading images/ video to social networks (37%)

Multiple devices streaming content can have a big impact on internet speeds and quality, especially when lots of people are watching TV or listening to music in their downtime, and it seems that students are more likely to be accessing entertainment through the internet than through traditional devices. Three quarters (74%) of the students surveyed admit that streaming services have changed how they watch TV and 31% claim that live TV is a thing of the past – just over a third (36%) prefer to watch programmes live. A further 69% primarily listen to music through streaming services, with 58% claiming they can’t get through the day without listening to music.

The majority of the students attending university with no pre-existing friendships, so building new relationships whilst maintaining roots at home with friends and family is key for developing an enjoyable university experience, and the research hints that the internet is an integral part of this. Almost three quarters (72%) use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, and nearly one in five (18%) use social media for flirting and dating. Messaging and video calls where also one of the most popular internet use activities, with 67% of students regularly logging in to keep in touch.  

Dr Lisa Webster, Psychology Senior Lecturer at Leeds Trinity University said: “There is a lot of negative press around Gen Z and the impact social media has on mental health, but it is also important to look at the positives of being connected, particularly when thinking about a transitional period such as moving away from home to start university.

“Social media and video calling can be a positive coping mechanism during stressful periods, with the ability to keep close to familiarity such as friends and family. There are also a range of online tools available to support students that are struggling with managing the change between home life and university, especially to act as a support before they have registered with a GP in their new city.”

Tom White, Sales and Marketing Director at Glide said: “Internet access is an important part of everyday life, especially for students starting university who are are used to having instant access in the palm of their hand, so it is key that accommodation amenities can support this demand. Our research found that only one in five (21%) have access to fibre optic broadband, with 8% relying on tethering from a mobile phone, which means their network is not going to be able to support their usage, especially for regular streamers.

“Putting smart technology, such as our Smart Block offering, at the heart of new student accommodation developments will deliver better value, save on energy costs and ensure that students needs can be met, as well as playing a key part on enhancing the student experience and play an important role in creating happy and healthy student communities.”

Related Articles