Daily mindfulness practice increases psychological capital and reduces depression in doctoral students
Barry, K and Woods, M and Martin, A and Sterling, C and Warnecke, E, Daily mindfulness practice increases psychological capital and reduces depression in doctoral students, Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, 4-7 July 2016, Perth, Australia, pp. 1. (2016) [Conference Extract]
Doctoral study presents many challenges and the level of attrition is between 30-50% in the UK, Australia, and North America. To determine how doctoral students can be better supported in order to increase retention, performance and student satisfaction, a randomized controlled trial was conducted to evaluate whether a daily mindfulness practice could reduce psychological distress and increase psychological capital indicators, which are known to have strong relationships with learning progress. Prior to treatment allocation the 81 recruited students were surveyed to examine their experiences of stress related to candidature and their perceptions of study progress. The majority of PhD candidates (70%) who participated in the study reported they were meeting or mostly meeting their study schedule and these students had significantly greater psychological capital attribute (hope, resilience, self-efficacy and optimism) values compared to students who were categorised as being behind schedule. The biggest challenges in doctoral study reported were candidature- and project-related, with self-confidence and motivation of particular note. Half of the participants were randomly allocated to an intervention consisting of a daily mindfulness practice for eight weeks (supported by an audio resource) and half received no intervention. Findings indicate that students allocated to the intervention had a significantly greater decrease in depression, and significant increases in the psychological capital attributes of hope, resilience and self-efficacy. This study highlights that wholistic approaches which blend academic and wellbeing support are important for student progress.