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Photo by Justin Quaintance

SU Wellness Centre to research student loneliness on U of C campus

By Zarif Alibhai, February 10 2017 —

Registered psychologists from the Students’ Union Wellness Centre will conduct a research project this semester to help determine what contributes to student loneliness.

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SU Wellness Centre psychologists Ann Laverty and Lara Schultz will conduct the research project // Photo by Zarif Alibhai

SU Wellness Centre psychologists Ann Laverty and Lara Schultz will carry out hour-long confidential interviews with 10 University of Calgary students for the project. They believe the research will help identify what contributes to student loneliness at the U of C.

The project is in response to the Nov. 28 release of the 2016 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) results, an anonymous survey that gauges student well-being across the province. The survey is conducted every three years.

According to the 2016 data, 65 per cent of U of C students who took part in the NCHA survey reported feeling extremely lonely at some point in the last 12 months.

“Something is happening here and that’s [what] we are kind of curious to understand,” Laverty said. “We think talking to students and going right to the students is the best way to try and understand what might be happening.” 

Just over 1,000 U of C students participated in the 2016 NCHA survey — the second time the U of C took part. According to Laverty, 30 post-secondary institutions participated in the survey in 2016.

Data from the 2013 NCHA survey led to the creation of the U of C’s Campus Mental Health Strategy in December 2015.

“When we get data, we get data that is just for students at the U of C. We get comparative data around how our students are impacted or how are they are self-reporting on measures in comparison of what we are seeing at other Canadian institutions across the country,” Laverty said.

Laverty said there are likely many factors that contribute to student loneliness at the U of C. She feels some students might arrive on campus having previously experienced loneliness.

“Maybe they were lonely in high school, so that could be a contributing factor,” she said. “I think loneliness is sometimes experienced because of transition — transitioning from high school to university. If a student has moved to Calgary to attend university, there are a lot of transitions in terms of moving from one location to another.”

According to Laverty, they hope to publish the results of the study and present them at conferences in the near future.

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