A study investigating the link between student finances and health has found British students have more debt, more financial worries and poorer health than their Finnish counterparts (despite the countries having similar health standards overall according to WHO figures). In Britain, student tuition fees have been introduced and maintenance grants abolished. In Finland, by contrast, there are no tuition fees, and students receive grants and housing benefit. The study found that in both countries it was a student’s financial anxieties rather than their actual debt, that was related to poorer mental and physical health. As well as having more financial worries and poorer health, British students were also more likely to have a part-time job, and were more likely to smoke, and to smoke more, than were the Finnish students.
The authors concluded that “Unless [UK] government policy changes dramatically, understanding which factors mediate the apparent impact of financial concerns on health is essential if successful interventions are to be implemented to minimise the negative impact of student hardship and improve health outcomes”. The authors caution that their correlational design means it is possible that health influences financial concern rather than the other way around, and they call on longitudinal work to clarify the situation.
The results were derived from questionnaires completed by 89 British students at Middlesex University and 98 Finnish students at university in Vaasa and Turku.
Jessop, D.C., Herberts, C. & Solomon, L. (2005). The impact of financial circumstances on student health. British Journal of Health Psychology, In Press. DOI: 10.1348/135910705X25480.
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.