The feasibility and impact of online peer support on the well-being of higher education students
The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Article publication date: 11 October 2021
Issue publication date: 28 April 2022
Peer support has been identified as an important protective factor for mental health and overall well-being. The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility of implementing an online peer support group and its impact on measures of well-being.
A mixed-methods randomized controlled trial design was used to examine the feasibility and impact of online peer support. Comparisons in well-being were made between the online peer support group and an in-person peer support group and control group. Participants were randomly assigned to a control group or either a six-week in-person or online peer support group. All participants completed an online survey measuring constructs of well-being pre- and post-condition. Additionally, qualitative data regarding the benefits of peer support and in particular the efficacy of the online format were collected from participants. Analysis of variance and post hoc tests determined significant differences within and between the groups.
Both the online and face-to-face peer support groups scored significantly higher on post-test measures of well-being than pre-test scores and control group scores. Qualitative narratives and significant quantitative findings supported the feasibility of peer support offered online. Post-condition outcomes showed that online peer support is as effective as in-person peer support for improving well-being.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first of its kind to compare online and in-person peer support programs for students in higher education. The results have direct implications for higher education students and practitioners, especially at times when face-to-face support is not feasible.
The authors express their gratitude to K. Koorn, RP, Mental Health Clinician, who facilitated all peer support sessions. This research was supported by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (#OHCRIF-SJUFRG230).
Drysdale, M.T.B., McBeath, M.L. and Callaghan, S.A. (2022), "The feasibility and impact of online peer support on the well-being of higher education students", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 206-217. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-02-2021-0012
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