Predictors of international students’ wellbeing: the importance of support
Ensuring student wellbeing is high is important as it can affect student experience, achievement and thus longer term career. International students are at increased risk of mental health difficulties during their time at University due to added stressors of adjusting to a new environment, language barriers and being a long distance from friends and family. Understanding the influences upon student wellbeing and how students can be best supported is critical to putting in place appropriate academic, pastoral and primary care support systems. This study aimed to evaluate the wellbeing of international students and identify important predictors.
International students’ wellbeing was measured at a UK university, using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale within a web-based survey. A regression analyses was then performed to identify predictors in the students’ backgrounds and experiences. Results from this analyses were triangulated with findings from semi-structured interviews with 10 international students.
The findings showed that students with the lowest wellbeing experienced numerous stressors in their host country and had found settling in difficult. They were unwilling to seek support due to issues such as stigma. Family difficulties were the greatest predictor of poorer wellbeing, highlighting again the impact of a students’ wider experiences.
These findings have important implications for informing areas of focus for student pastoral services in the UK. For GPs, it suggests that exploring family networks and interactions further when assessing international students with common mental health disorders may be the key to addressing their problem more specifically. Further research may focus on how to address the lack of family support in this patient group.