Last updated: April 2023
Our annual Student Happiness Index measures how happy and optimistic students feel as well as what’s motivating them for the future. Although our 2022 report highlights an increase in students’ happiness compared to last year, so too have concerns about mental health. 30% of undergraduates agree their mental health has worsened in the past year.
Not surprisingly, the cost of living crisis has had a profound effect with 46% of students concerned about their finances. This leads to other worrying behaviour. 68% say they’ll be cutting back on meeting friends and going out socially and students report spending less on food shopping and reducing their gas and electricity to keep costs down.
With almost 60 years’ experience in the education sector we understand the struggles that students face. In 2019 we launched our Student Assistance Programme in partnership with Health Assured and now offer 24/7 mental health and wellness support to over 1 million students through their universities, colleges and accommodation providers.
Throughout this article, we’re going to share information about mental health in higher education, as well as provide ideas about how you can support student wellbeing even further.
Mental health in higher education
Higher education can be a stressful and pressurised time for many students – especially when heading to university for the first time. The jump in the level of education, increase in workload and potentially moving away from home can impact every student – even the ones who don’t regularly struggle with their mental health.
Mental health issues in education
We touched on some of the reasons why students may struggle with their mental health above, but let’s dig a little deeper. At Endsleigh, we undertake an annual Student Happiness Index. This is a research project that finds out about students’ concerns, measures how happy they are and helps us understand more about their health and wellbeing. It also means we can compare each year’s results to the previous year, so we can see if patterns are emerging.
Here are some of the key findings of our 2022 Student Happiness Index:
• 30% of undergraduates agreed that their mental health has worsened over the last year.
• 44% of first years tend to be happier than those in later years.
• International students had a student happiness score of 49% - greater than their home-based peers.
Here are some of their concerns:
• 46% of students said finance was their main concern.
• 68% said they would be going out to socialise less often due to the cost-of-living crisis.
• Over 70% said they were looking to get a part-time job, or work longer hours in an existing role to supplement their student loan.
• Many are even taking on extra debt beyond their student loan to support their finances.
• The concerns around finances increased the closer the student was to graduation.
Here’s how their happiness score has changed over the last year:
• The overall student happiness score is a net +36% this year, compared with -16% in 2021.
• The net optimism score is +39% this year, compared with +15% in 2021.
• First years led the way, with a happiness score of 44%.
• Second years’ scores went from -31% in 2021, to +29% this year.
• Postgraduates showed the biggest positive change for happiness score, with a net score of +46%.
These results are crucial for education providers to digest as they are an invaluable resource when planning and defining wellbeing strategies
For example, your wellbeing strategy may be tailored more towards first-year students who are going through immediate change. But these results may have highlighted that second and third-year students need an equal amount of support.
To see the full report, head here.
Supporting student mental health in higher education
Student wellbeing isn’t a new concern for education providers, so it’s very likely that you have a strategy already in place to support students’ mental health. But like any responsible education provider, you’re probably open to building on and adapting your strategy to make sure the needs of students are continuously met. Here are some ideas that could be implemented:
• Access to counsellors
Speaking to professionals can be important, but it’s also expensive. Providing free, adhoc access to counsellors can be a good way to make sure that support is there for students should they need it.
• 24/7 support
While most university services run during sociable hours, it can be helpful to facilitate support outside of university hours. So that if the student is struggling, they know there's a service they can access 24/7.
• Translation services to ensure all students have equal access.
Whatever service you use, whether its an in-house counselling team, or outsourcing to a third-party, it’s important to make sure translation services are available so that the service is accessible to everyone.
• Offer more in-depth structured counselling
Whilst a wellbeing helpline is a fantastic resource, providing access to more structured counselling could be beneficial for students who require a more consistent approach.
• Offer free access to legal and financial advisors
University can be a difficult time for many – especially when it comes to managing finances etc. Ensuring there is support for legal and financial advice can help students manage issues that might be causing them stress.
• Continuously build on your strategy to ensure you’re always adapting
Having access to annual research that reports on how students are feeling, how happy they are and what they’re worried about can be hugely beneficial. It means that you can adapt your wellbeing strategy to suit the evolving needs of students.
We know it’s not practical for universities to add this to their to-do list on an annual basis – that’s why we conduct our Student Happiness Index – to provide as much insight as possible.
• Consider Endsleigh’s Student Assistance Programme
If you’re still building out your wellbeing strategy, trying to facilitate multiple different services and merge them all together to create a wellbeing package can be a difficult, time-consuming task. The good news is, this is one of the reasons we developed our wellbeing programme – to help education establishments like yours.
We joined forces with Health Assured to create an expert-led service that provides student support with an aim of relieving students of pressure. It currently supports over 400,000 students.
Our suite of student wellbeing products includes:
o 24/7 helpline - with access to qualified counsellors.
o International student support including translation services in over 240 languages – to ensure that support is fully inclusive.
o Options for more in-depth structured counselling which can help reduce your waiting lists and relieve pressure built up by demand.
o An at-risk student data sharing protocol – to ensure that concerns can be raised for vulnerable students.
o Access to legal and financial advisors for practical advice.
o A health and wellbeing app that includes live chat and video calling.
Don’t need all the services? You can also tailor the package to suit your needs. Just get in touch with one of our friendly team to talk through your requirements.
Find out more about our student wellbeing services.