70 per cent of Durham students don’t feel like they have a healthy work-life balance

Some students reported studying for 10 hours daily

Recently, The Durham Tab asked Durham students questions about how they handle their work-life balance when studying at university. Wanting to understand more about time management and healthy habits, the main question asked students: “Do you feel as though you have a healthy work-life balance?”. Of those who responded, 85 people voted “yes” and 202 people voted “no”, meaning that 70 per cent of the 287 students who responded felt as though they did not have a healthy work-life balance.

Other questions asked what students did at university when not studying, how many hours a day they spent studying, or how many times they go out with their friends a week. Likewise to the previous results, the answers primarily leaned towards the conclusion that students at Durham University have an ultimately unhealthy work-life balance.

These results may seem normal on a surface level, but it’s also important to see if there is an underlying wider issue of what it says about Durham University and its approach to mental health among students. This broadened outlook specifically underlines the often-overlooked fact that a healthy work-life balance is paramount to a person’s mental health.

A healthy work-life balance typically involves sleeping and eating well, meeting deadlines while still having times for social activities, and not feeling stressed about work during daily activities. Achieving these often prevents burnout and even promotes a higher standard of productivity. However, evidence from our poll suggests that when asked whether they feel they have a healthy work-life balance or not, the majority of students will answer no.

Although these results do not represent the opinion of the entire Durham University student body, it is nonetheless important to bring awareness to them and highlight possible reasons for the matter.

With this in mind, students were asked the question “what do you do at university when you’re not studying?”, with many replies consisting of work, sleeping, or phone usage. While these pastimes aren’t an issue in of themselves, the fact that they made up the majority of student’s responses is concerning. Using a phone, sleeping, or working are activities which do not give students the time to relax their brain and focus on things they actually enjoy.

The reasons for these results may vary, but it may have something to do with the results found a similar question asking the number of hours students spend studying a day. Some students remarked that they studied for up to 10 hours a day regularly.

As a result, students who dedicate the majority of their day studying will inevitably feel as though they don’t have a healthy work-life balance. When not spending time studying, students will evidently occupy themselves with another form of work, to which the only form of relaxation they would get at the end of the day is sleep.

There has been research undertaken on Durham University and its approach to mental health, with controversy arising on whether the correct methodology is being applied in recording student satisfaction. For example, HUMEN’s university mental health league table ranked Durham at 56 out of around 80 universities, with an overall poor satisfaction rate.

The survey’s final question saw a 50/50 split on whether student have had to seek any form of help or counselling while at university as a result of academic pressure. This means that it’s hard to tell whether the problem lies within the institution’s mental health services, or the pressures placed on students in the first place.

Nonetheless, one possible conclusion that could be made from this data is that the effects of university stress have created an environment where students are taking less time taking care of themselves through hobbies and other social activities.

This conversation is specifically in reference to the results from The Durham Tab’s poll. However, when our results are considered alongside government statistics from 2021/22, in which 119,500 students said they had a mental health condition – three and a half times as high as reports from 2014/15 – it has become increasingly more important that universities take further steps in looking after their students.

Ways to achieve this obviously vary, however, pushing awareness of mental health facilities amongst the student body is definitely one place to start. With this, a further emphasis on managing a work-life balance in a healthy way can again be done through Durham opening itself up a greater awareness to mental health.

Fortunately, the university has worked towards significant progress in this field, having invested an additional £1.3m per year into mental health services.

Durham University has not yet provided The Durham Tab with a statement.

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