The first-of-its-kind Student Living Monitor (SLM) survey from The Class Foundation is a pioneering effort to uncover the intricate relationship between student mental health and their accommodation environments. This comprehensive study spanned 40 countries and engaged 3,300+ participants, providing crucial insights into the wellbeing of higher education students in Europe.
The Mental Health Inventory Index 5 (MHI-5) tool is internationally recognised and extensively documented, measuring wellbeing on a scale of 0 to 100. Scores above 60 signify good mental health and optimal wellbeing.
The average MHI-5 score for the respondents from 40 European countries is 57, which is slightly below the benchmark score of 60. It suggests that, on average, the surveyed individuals from these countries have mental health scores at the lower end of the spectrum associated with good mental health.
“A student’s living environment plays a vital role in supporting their mental health. When students are set up for success in an environment, it allows them to thrive. So, this survey will help inform how best to design and operate student accommodation.”Frank Uffen, Founder, The Class Foundation
Utilising the MHI-5 method, the results of the survey have unveiled important insights underscoring the connection between student accommodation and their overall wellbeing:
- Availability and Choice: The survey shows that allowing students to choose their accommodation options significantly boosts their happiness. Limited choices often result from housing shortages, so increasing available options is vital, focusing on the right types of accommodations.
- Engagement for wellbeing: Students who engage in communal activities are happier. Common spaces for socialising and physical activities – like gyms and outdoor areas – foster a sense of community and positively affect students’ wellbeing.
- Inclusive Community: Diverse student groups require tailored support. Non-traditional background students need specific assistance to feel included and supported.
- Targeted Support: Financially constrained students experience poorer mental health. Offering scholarships and connecting them to relevant resources is crucial. Mental health services should be expanded and made easily accessible, especially as students with poor mental health utilise these services the most.
“These findings serve as a clarion call to universities, accommodation providers, and policymakers alike to prioritise and enhance mental health support for students. It’s imperative to invest in comprehensive mental health programmes, develop inclusive accommodations, and cultivate a supportive environment that fosters well-being and resilience among students.”Kelly-anne Watson, Managing Director (MD), The Class Foundation
One of the revelations from The Class Foundation’s study is the significant disparity in mental health ratings based on accommodation types. Students residing in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) reported a notably higher average score of 57.6 on the MHI-5 scale, while their counterparts living at home or in rented accommodations had a lower score of 52.4, marking a substantial difference of 5.2 points. Overall low scores emphasise the urgent need for a thorough reassessment of the mental health support within the PBSA sector and other types of student housing.
The survey highlighted the obstacles encountered by students from non-traditional backgrounds, including sexual and ethnic minorities. Those from non-traditional backgrounds recorded an average MHI-5 rating of 43.2, significantly lower by 13.6 points compared to students without such backgrounds (60.6).
The study’s detailed country-level analysis revealed significant variations in student mental health across Europe, providing a valuable resource for educators, policymakers, and stakeholders dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of higher education students.
The improved understanding of factors associated with poor mental health and those that can enhance mental wellbeing lays a critical foundation for designing targeted strategies and interventions.
The survey highlights the significance of not only the physical living spaces, but also the sense of community, inclusivity, and customised support in shaping students’ mental health and overall higher education experience.
“Each year, thousands of students across Europe embark on educational journeys, immersing themselves in new cultures and education systems. However, ensuring accommodation at their destination remains a persistent challenge for international students, impacting student wellbeing.
“The Erasmus Student Network is committed to supporting students’ mobility, especially in crucial areas like timely and suitable housing. Initiatives like the Student Living Monitor address multifaceted living condition issues, contributing to student wellbeing. We appreciate the collaboration with the Class Foundation in creating pathways for mobile learners and shaping the future of mobility.”Rita Dias, President of the Erasmus Student Network, Research Partners