Personal, social and relational predictors of UK postgraduate researcher mental health problems

Berry, Clio, Niven, Jeremy E and Hazell, Cassie M (2021) Personal, social and relational predictors of UK postgraduate researcher mental health problems. BJPsych Open, 7 (6). a205 1-11. ISSN 2056-4724

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Abstract

Background
Emerging evidence demonstrates that postgraduate researchers have high rates of mental health problems. These problems are distressing, affect PhD studies, and have longer-term potential effects beyond the duration of the PhD. Yet large-scale studies of multiple risk and protective factors are rare.

Aims
We aimed to test the predictive validity of a comprehensive set of potential determinants of mental health symptoms (depression, anxiety and suicidality) among postgraduate researchers in the UK, including personal, study-related, and supervision characteristics.

Method
We used regression models applied to data obtained from a national online survey of UK postgraduate researchers (Understanding DOCtoral researcher mental health; U-DOC, 2018–2019) to test predictors of mental health symptoms.

Results
These models show that postgraduate researchers' mental health symptoms are predicted by demographic, occupational, psychological, social and supervisory relationship factors. Greater perfectionism, more impostor thoughts and reduced supervisory communion most strongly and consistently predict mental health symptoms.

Conclusions
Institutions training postgraduate researchers should focus interventions intended to improve depression, anxiety, suicidality, on self-beliefs and social connectedness. Moreover, supervisors should be provided with training that improves the degree of agency, and especially communion, in the relationships they form with postgraduate researchers.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: perfectionism, supervision, loneliness, mental health, doctoral student
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Primary Care and Public Health
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2021 07:26
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2021 10:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102260

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