The Mental Health and Wellbeing of University Students: Acceptability, Effectiveness, and Mechanisms of a Mindfulness-Based Course

Emma Medlicott, Alice Phillips, Catherine Crane, Verena Hinze, Laura Taylor, Alice Tickell, Jesus Montero-Marin, Willem Kuyken

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Mental health problems are relatively common during university and adversely affect academic outcomes. Evidence suggests that mindfulness can support the mental health and wellbeing of university students. We explored the acceptability and effectiveness of an 8-week instructor-led mindfulness-based course (“Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World”; Williams and Penman, 2011) on improving wellbeing and mental health (self-reported distress), orientation and motivation towards academic goals, and the mechanisms driving these changes. Eighty-six undergraduate and post-graduate students (>18 years) participated. Students engaged well with the course, with 36 (48.0%) completing the whole programme, 52 (69.3%) attending 7 out of 8 sessions, and 71 (94.7%) completing at least half. Significant improvements in wellbeing and mental health were found post-intervention and at 6-week follow-up. Improvements in wellbeing were mediated by mindfulness, self-compassion, and resilience. Improvements in mental health were mediated by improvements in mindfulness and resilience but not self-compassion. Significant improvements in students’ orientation to their academic goal, measured by “commitment” to, “likelihood” of achieving, and feeling more equipped with the “skills and resources” needed, were found at post-intervention and at 6-week follow-up. Whilst exploratory, the results suggest that this mindfulness intervention is acceptable and effective for university students and can support academic study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6023
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust WT104908/Z/14/Z and WT107496/Z/15/Z and supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. The Wellcome Trust and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Data Availability Statement
Following the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), all of the individual anonymized and completely de-identified participant data are available for any analytical purpose that is related to achieve aims in the present study upon reasonable request to researchers (a) who provide a methodologically sound proposal and (b) whose proposed use of the data has been approved by an independent ethical review committee. The data and codebook will be provided by the corresponding author ( to interested researchers that meet the aforementioned criteria.


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