Mental Health of International Students Studying at Canadian Universities

  • Author / Creator
    Baghoori, Delaram
  • Background. The number of international students pursuing their education in countries with advanced economies has increased considerably. This trend drives the global agenda for conducting more rigorous research for this population worldwide and at the national (Canadian) level. Beyond the general stressors that post-secondary students experience, additional stressors related to being an international student and attending a new academic system in the destination's country's new culture could significantly impact international students' mental health status. However, international students' mental health has received little attention, and there is a lack of literature addressing this issue in the Canadian context. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the mental health status and factors associated with international students' mental health problems in Canadian Universities.
    Research purpose/questions: This study aimed to explore the mental health status of both undergraduate and graduate international students studying at one Canadian University based on Keyes's Dual Continuum Model of Mental Health and Mental Illness. This study also investigated the association between coping skills and social support, and student mental health.Methods. A cross-sectional survey design was employed to explore the international students' mental health status at the University of Alberta during the Winter and Spring 2020 semesters. The online survey consisted of demographic questions in addition to four assessments - the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF), Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), the Carver Brief-Cope Inventory (CBCI), and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). Descriptive statistics were conducted to analyze the demographic data and the distribution of student mental health on Keyes's Dual Continuum Model of Mental Health and Mental Illness. The multiple regression analysis was utilized to understand how international students' coping skills and social support could predict their psychological distress and subjective well-being.
    Results. Three hundred and thirty-eight international students participated in this study with a mean age of 24.8 years old. The sample represented international students from 53 countries. Fifty-six percent of participants were at the graduate levels of study, and 85% of respondents described themselves as single. Female participants, those in the Ph.D. programs, and married students demonstrated better mental health status and lower psychological distress. Based on the, 76% of international students demonstrated optimal mental health without any previous diagnosis/treatment of any mental disorders, as designed by Keyes' Dual Continuum Model of Mental Health and Mental Illness. On the other hand, 3% demonstrated poor mental health with a previous diagnosis/treatment of mental disorders. In terms of coping styles, 86% of participants used approach coping as their primary coping style. The analysis showed that all approach coping style, avoidant coping style, and social support level were significant predictors of positive mental health and psychological distress.
    Discussion. The findings of this study revealed that international students who are female, married, and in the Ph.D. program were more likely than their peers to have better mental health status and lower psychological distress. This result could be related to the tendency of women to seek help from and disclose their mental health problems to their friends or family members than men. Married couples have more robust social networks such as their partners or in-law's family members to support them when they need or seek help. Moreover, Ph.D. students might have more previous experiences regarding handling difficult situations by using better coping strategies or looking for help. With these findings in mind, recommendations to better support international students are included. This study provides comprehensive and novel data that can be used to address the gaps in meeting the mental health needs of international students and raise awareness of this population's unique mental health status.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.