Job demands-resources theory extended: stress, loneliness, and care responsibilities impacting UK doctoral students’ and academics’ mental health

Akiko Ueno, Chong Yu, Lucill Curtis, Charles Dennis

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Abstract

Given the increasing challenges in academia since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial to understand how work demands, life demands, and job resources affect the mental health of academic researchers. In extending the job demands-resources theory, the present study investigates the relationships between job resources, research work demand, life demand (i.e. caring responsibility), stress, loneliness and mental health among doctoral students and academics. The results from a secondary dataset of 4,563 academic researchers (academics undertaking research and doctoral students) in the UK indicate that job resources are positively associated with mental health, while caring responsibility and loneliness negatively impact mental health. Stress is also found to partially mediate (explain) the relationships between job resources, research work demand, and mental health. Moreover, loneliness moderates the positive impact of job resources on mental health, particularly attenuating this relationship for academic researchers who experience higher levels of loneliness. Surprisingly, during Covid-19, the moderation effect of gender on the path from caring responsibility to stress is significantly stronger for males than for female colleagues. Feeling unprepared, male colleagues who were pressured to take on caring responsibilities experienced higher stress. We suggest strategic interventions to enhance job resources and support researchers who have caregiving responsibilities, while also alleviating stress and feelings of loneliness. Future research should engage alternative perspectives at both individual (e.g. age, familial wealth) and institutional (e.g. education system, discipline/field) levels.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Early online date5 Jun 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Mental health; job-demands resources, theory, stress, loneliness, academic researchers, doctoral students

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