Putative mechanisms of the relationship between postgraduate school and psychological difficulties include chronic stress and engagement in unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, sleep deprivation, substance and alcohol misuse, sedentary lifestyle, and social isolation. A recent study conducted within the context of a required core course at the Yale School of Public Health tested the effectiveness of a health promotion intervention for graduate students. The lead author and instructor for the course, Dr. Marney White, developed the curriculum-based prevention program to encourage students to engage in mental wellness behaviors.
The study, published in the American Journal of Health Education, found that students who were incentivized to engage in health promotion behaviors via extra credit opportunities reported increased health promotion behaviors over the course of the semester. Key outcomes measured at the start and end of the semester included nutrition, physical activity, and mental health and general health perception. Control students, who were not enrolled in the course, completed the assessments but did not participate in the health-promotion program. Enrolled students reported significant improvements in nutrition, physical activity, and perception of general health. At post-intervention, general health perception was negatively associated with stress, anxiety, and depression, such that higher assessment of physical health was related to reduced mental distress.
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