Academics and Mental Health Risks

In a report commissioned by the Royal Society and Wellcome Trust, researchers found out that the majority of people working in higher education find their jobs stressful. This makes them more prone to developing common mental health problems as compared to other professions.

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Factors such as lack of job security, limited support from management, and the weight of work-related demands on their time were among the factors listed as affecting the health, according to the literature review conducted by RAND Europe, an independent not-for-profit research institute.

In their research, the team did a systematic review of published work on researchers’ well-being and identified 48 studies which they analysed for their report.

According to lead researcher Dr Susan Guthrie, their survey data indicate that the majority of university staff find their job stressful. “Levels of burnout appear higher among university staff than in general working populations and are comparable to ‘high-risk’ groups such as healthcare workers,” she added.

Further, the report also said that “In large-scale surveys, UK higher education staff have reported worse well-being than staff in other types of employment in the areas of work demands, change management, the support provided by managers and clarity about one’s role.”

The report also added that the real and perceived job insecurity, particularly those who are at the beginning of their careers, often employed on a series of short-term contracts, is an important issue for researchers.

In their report, Dr Guthrie and her team discovered that those who devoted a lot of time on their research experienced less stress as compared to those who did not. However, it is unclear whether this reduction in stress is relative to their seniority — whereas a more senior researcher is able to spend more time on their study.

In conclusion, the report calls for universities to work with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and help address the stress in the workplace. Further, the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust urges institutions to work more closely with the UK’s regulator of health and safety in the workplace to address the risks to staff well-being. By following the management standards set by HSE, universities can identify and alleviate stress at an organisational level.

“It could be useful to work through that approach with a university or a research organisation to identify the mechanisms at play in those environments. Doing so could establish the relevance of the approach in this context, and potentially provide a model that could be used more widely in the sector,” the report added.

(Source: Times Higher Education)