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P27 Factros that influence mental health of university and college students in the UK: a systematic review
  1. Fiona Campbell,
  2. Lindsay Blank,
  3. Anna Cantrell,
  4. Susan Baxter,
  5. Christopher Blackmore,
  6. Jan Dixon,
  7. Goyder Elizabeth
  1. SHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK


Background Worsening mental health of students in higher education is a public policy concern and the impact of measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 has heightened awareness of this issue. Preventing poor mental health and supporting positive mental wellbeing needs to be based on an evidence informed understanding what factors influence the mental health of students.

Methods We undertook a systematicreview of observational studies that measured factors associated with student mental wellbeing and poor mental health. Extensive searches were undertaken across five databases. We included studies undertaken in the UK and published within the last decade (2010–2020). Due to heterogeneity of factors, and diversity of outcomes used to measure wellbeing and poor mental health the findings were analysed and described narratively.

Results Our search identified 2567 citations, following the removal of duplications. Following screening by two reviewers, we included 30 studies, most of which were cross sectional in design. Those factors most strongly and consistently associated with increased risk of developing poor mental health included students with experiences of trauma in childhood, those that identify as LGBTQ and students with autism. Factors that promote wellbeing include developing strong and supportive social networks. Students who are prepared and able to adjust to the changes that moving into higher education presents also experience better mental health. Some behaviours that are associated with poor mental health include lack of engagement both with learning and leisure activities and poor mental health literacy.

Conclusion Improved knowledge of factors associated with poor mental health and also those that increase mental wellbeing can provide a foundation for designing strategies and specific interventions that can prevent poor mental health and ensuring targeted support is available for students at increased risk. A critical risk factor for poor mental health,identified in this review was social isolation and a powerful protective factor was a sense of belonging. Strategies that support the development of supportive networks for young people in university settings is vital for positive mental health.

  • Student mental health and wellbeing
  • systematic review
  • risk and protective factors

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