New research sheds light on international students’ mental health
A world first study involving 12,204 participants from 175 countries has found that international students may be at a higher risk of developing a mental illness before they come to Australia to study. A new report from Bupa makes six key recommendations to improve international students’ risk of developing a mental illness while they are studying in Australia.
This new report from Bupa, titled The 2019 Mental Wellbeing Survey of Prospective International and Overseas Students, marks the first time that students’ mental wellbeing has been assessed prior to their arrival in Australia.
Our research shows that approximately one in five prospective international students reported very low life satisfaction, which is indicative of depression.
"A significant proportion also scored highly on the measures of loneliness, stress, anxiety and felt pressure to succeed in their future studies in another country; while one in three are not certain they could access social support in a time of need. These findings are concerning because we would expect these risks to manifest even more poorly after students arrive in Australia to study and without supports like friends and family," said Dr Tomyn.
Australia boasts world-class universities and our status as a study-abroad destination of choice injects $32 billion into the economy each year. However, many international students studying in Australia experience poor mental health.
Earlier this year, the Victorian Coroners Prevention Unit handed down its findings into the suicide deaths of 27 international students, finding that international students were significantly less likely to seek help than their Australian peers.
In 2019, Bupa partnered with QS Enrolment Solutions to survey prospective international and overseas students about their pre-departure mental wellbeing.
Cultivating a deeper understanding around the mental wellness needs of international students is critical to building stronger support systems at every stage of their education journey.
“There are a number of challenges that international students must overcome, and nurturing mental wellness is foundational to seeing students succeed," said Chris Strods.
Bupa provides a wide array of health services to international students, including a 24/7 support line staffed by registered nurses, dedicated on-campus support and health services, and specialised Overseas Student Health Insurance.
“Mental health and wellbeing is a key focus area for Bupa. We partner with many leading educational institutions around Australia and we’ve been developing programs and initiatives to better support the needs of their students,” said Sarah Thorne, General Manager Educational Partnerships, Bupa.
“With this research, we’re now able to deepen our understanding of the issues impacting international students and tailor the support services we offer to international students to better support them while studying in Australia.”
Bupa’s report makes six recommendations to improve international students’ risk of experiencing poor mental health:
- Build mental health awareness and reduce stigma to enhance help-seeking behaviour among international students.
- A greater focus on early intervention as a means to reduce the prevalence and severity of mental illness.
- Create more opportunities for international students to build social connections and support networks while studying in Australia
- Undertake further research to address the limited published data concerning international students within the scientific literature.
- Mental health first aid certification for university teaching staff.
- Support students to sleep well, exercise often and have a healthy diet.
The full report - The 2019 Mental Wellbeing Survey of Prospective International and Overseas Students - can be downloaded below.