Well-being and ill-being on campus
journal contributionposted on 2023-10-25, 08:35 authored by Philip MorrisonPhilip Morrison, I Ming LiuI Ming Liu, Dylon Zeng
Enquiries into the low mental health of university students are exposing the relative merits of competing theoretical and empirical models. The debate is important because the models used to characterise the problem imply alternative causations, consequences, and possible interventions. The purpose of our study is to highlight the value of recognising the presence of both well-being and ill-being within individual students (the dual continua model) as opposed to viewing their well-being and ill-being as opposite ends of a single continuum of mental health (the bipolar model). Using a baseline survey completed by 1,581 first year undergraduate students who enrolled in a New Zealand university at the beginning of 2019, we document the inverse correlation between their scores on the WHO-5 measure of psychological well-being and the PHQ-9 measure of psychological distress or ill-being. Contrary to the assumption of the bipolar model we find their inverse correlation is not strong and that many students are located off the diagonal, some reporting both high well-being and high ill-being over the two-week reference period and many more recording low scores on both screening instruments. We represent this heterogeneity in terms of six clusters of students based on a latent profile analysis of their two scores. We also find that students’ well-being and ill-being respond differently to variations in their physical and financial health both in cross-section and over time, confirming that well-being and ill-being can also be functionally independent. The results are important both diagnostically and in terms of the interventions they suggest.