Title

Navigating the educational bottleneck: Psychological distress, academic burnout and potential protective factors in psychology Honours students

Author Identifiers

Chelsea Thompson
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6114-9859

Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Psychology) Honours

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Craig Harms

Abstract

The current study aimed to determine the prevalence of psychological distress and academic burnout in psychology honours students and to examine if nine potential protective factors mitigated the risk of developing poor mental health and wellbeing during the educational bottleneck year. Additionally, it assessed if the relationship between psychological distress and psychological resilience depended on students’ study-load. Psychology honours students from 22 universities across Australia (N = 222) completed an online survey that included measures of psychological distress, academic burnout, and nine protective factors. It was found that almost half the students were at high risk of psychological distress and academic burnout. It was also found that dispositional optimism, perceived academic control, psychological resilience, previous academic performance, and emotional and instrumental support were associated with lower levels of psychological distress and academic burnout. No one predictor was important for each outcome. However, dispositional optimism was the most important protective factor for this sample overall, providing strong effects in three of the four psychological health outcomes. No support was found for the proposed moderation effect for study-load on psychological resilience and psychological distress. To create effective interventions, future research should examine specific risk factors that promote the development of poor mental health during the educational bottleneck and how certain protective factors work to mitigate this risk.

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