The influence individualistic and collectivistic value systems have on the psychological wellbeing of international students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Presenters/Authors and Affiliations:
Ashley Humphrey, Federation University
Helen Forbes-Mewett, Monash University

Evidence indicates that the psychological wellbeing of international students was declining before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in developed countries like Australia, the US and the UK. The impact of the pandemic appears to have exacerbated this issue. Research has identified a range of key contributors to this trend, including the often-unfamiliar academic environment international students are exposed to, and hesitancies to engage in help seeking behaviours. The influences of culturally embedded social values have been proposed as a possible detractor to the mental health of young people in the developed world, however these values have not been explored specifically to international students studying in these contexts. Drawing on findings from a mixed methods approach, this paper explores how students from collectivistic backgrounds navigate themselves socially whilst studying in an individualistic environment like Australia, and how personal attachment to these values may influence wellbeing. Our findings will bring clarity to the way in which social values and differing socio-cultural norms influence the psychological wellbeing of international students in the current COVID-19 context.

About Authors

Dr Ashley Humphrey

Affiliation/s: Federation University

Dr Ashley Humphrey completed his PhD in Psychology at Monash University and now works as a Lecturer and Research Psychologist at Federation University. His research largely focuses on cultural influences on mental health. He is currently expanding his research in conjunction with Associate Professor Helen Forbes-Mewett to understated the influence key Western cultural values can have on the mental health of students from collective societies.

Helen Forbes-Mewett

Affiliation/s: Monash University

Associate Professor Helen Forbes-Mewett is Discipline Head of Sociology at Monash University and Deputy Director of the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre. Helen has a multi-disciplinary background with degrees in Sociology, Psychology and International Business. Her research focusses on international education and student wellbeing. Helen is a member of the Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Committee. She has published widely in scholarly academic journals and is the author of four books including: International Student Security (2010), International Students and Crime (2015), The New Security: Individual, Community and Cultural Experiences (2018), and Vulnerability in a Mobile World (2020).

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