Belonging at school: the impact on wellbeing

Tuesday, 05 March, 2024

Belonging at school: the impact on wellbeing

The role that school belonging plays in promoting mental health has been explored in a new study.

The research was undertaken as part of a collaboration between Monash University, Deakin University, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne. It outlines the importance of school belonging as an intervention target with lasting impacts on mental health.

School belonging — characterised by positive affect towards school, strong relationships with teachers and feeling socially valued — has long been associated with immediate benefits for students’ mental health.

During the study, researchers examined over 1500 young adults to determine the long-term mental health outcomes of school belonging on the transition to adulthood. They assessed school belonging at the age of 15–16 and mental health symptoms at age 19–20, 23–24 and 27–28 years.

Lead author Associate Professor Kelly-Ann Allen, from the Faculty of Education, said the findings indicate that higher levels of school belonging are linked to lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress in young adulthood.

“The study highlights the significance of adolescent school belonging, particularly the feeling of being socially valued, as a protective factor against later mental health issues. The results emphasise the need for sustained interventions and programs that extend beyond the school setting, establishing a strong foundation for positive engagement in various environments during the transition to adulthood,” Allen said.

According to Dr Meredith O’Connor from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, these findings come at a crucial time, as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies belonging as a major trend in education with the potential to counteract increasing loneliness, social isolation and mental health problems in many societies.

“The long-term follow-up of individuals within the Australian Temperament Project allowed us to examine how experiences of school belonging mattered for young adults’ wellbeing almost a decade later, which is a unique and important contribution to the existing evidence base,” O’Connor said.

Professor Andrea Reupert from the Faculty of Education and co-author of the paper said in order to prevent mental health problems in adulthood, change must start in school.

“Schools are opportunistic sites for mental health prevention and promotion, especially for vulnerable young people. Promoting school belonging and student wellbeing may protect against other vulnerabilities such as adverse home conditions,” she said.

As schools and communities seek to address the challenges faced by today’s youth, focusing on initiatives that enhance students’ sense of acceptance and respect within the school environment becomes paramount.

Image credit:

Related News

Reading teaches children about pain: study

Young children learn about the concept of pain through reading, a new study from University of...

Increasing language diversity in western Sydney schools

Nearly 250 language backgrounds are represented in NSW public schools, according to a new report.

Lack of school readiness predicts disadvantage: study

An analysis of student data has found that students struggling when they first start school are...

  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd