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Financial stress puts students at greater risk for mental illness

Written by Susan Gair, James Cook University
Originally published on The Conversation.

Balancing work and tertiary study is harder now than in 2012: study

Students know completing a university degree gives them a better chance of landing a high-paying job, often after surviving financial hardship while studying. But striking a balance between life, work and study appears to be getting tougher.

Australia has experienced progressive higher education policies, a social inclusion agenda and widened tertiary access. This has resulted in a rise in working-class, mature-aged, first-in-family and Indigenous students attending university. But government income support has not been quite so progressive.


Read more: Has the push to get more disadvantaged students into universities been a success?


In fact, in recent decades, Australian governments have overseen an ongoing reduction in student financial support. Consequences may include increased student dropouts and precarious student mental health, particularly for non-traditional cohorts.

A report on university students’ mental health found “high risk” groups for mental health issues included:

  • students from rural/regional areas and low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • first-in-family students
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • international students
  • and students with a disability.

Another study found female students under 34 with financial stresses and in a subsequent year of their degree were at higher risk than other students. Without support, these students were at risk of severe mental illness.

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Recent research funded by the NCSEHE:

Li, I. W., & Carroll, D. 2017. Factors Influencing University Student Satisfaction, Dropout and Academic Performance: An Australian Higher Education Equity Perspective

Grant-Smith, D., and Gillett-Swan, J. 2017. WIL Wellbeing: Exploring impacts of unpaid practicum on student wellbeing. 

Nelson, K., Picton, C., McMillan, J., Edwards, D., Devlin, M. & Martin, K. 2017. Understanding the Completion Patterns of Equity Students in Regional Universities. 

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. 2017. NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for low SES students in Australian higher education.

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. 2017. NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for students with disability in Australian higher education. 

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. 2017. NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for regional and remote students in Australian higher education

Posted 17 January 2018 Posted in Disability, General, Indigenous, International, Low SES, Regional