The mental health of university students
Starting university is a key life challenge with the potential for psychological distress.
Universities have a limited mental health resource but an increasing demand for their counselling services (Institute of public policy research, 2017). This has led to calls for earlier intervention.
Fika’s app-based intervention
In association with a UK University, we conducted a randomised control trial (RCT) with 92 students. The aim was to investigate the effect that the Fika app had on life satisfaction, self-efficacy and positive affect. Each of these positive psychological variables are linked with a successful university transition, and were tracked for 6 weeks. To ensure fairness, students were compared with an active control group who used a journaling app.
Over the course of 6 weeks, students were asked to use the Fika app a minimum of 3 times a week. This contained evidence-based 5 minute mental fitness exercises influenced by positive psychology. These activities included being grateful, finding meaning and using your strengths.
The positive impact of Fika
After 6 weeks, students using the Fika app showed significant improvement in life satisfaction, positive affect and self-efficacy compared to an active control group.
Students also reported a reduction in negative affect. Each of these are protective psychological variables and are associated with a successful university transition.
This case study shows how the practice of short but regular mental fitness training can positively impact the mental health of students during a key life transition.