Sense of Belonging, Peer Support, and Social Media: Examining the Mental Health, Well-Being and School to Work Transitions of Co-operative and Non-Co-operative Education Students
McBeath, Margaret Lyn
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The primary aim of this study was to examine student perceptions of sense of belonging, peer support, and student social media use and how these factors influence their mental health, overall well-being, and confidence regarding their transition to work after graduation (i.e., school-to-work efficacy). A second aim was to examine the role of social media use on sense of belonging, peer support, and mental health. A third and final aim was to examine the above-mentioned variables in the context of co-operative education (co-op). Participants, undergraduate students (n=314) from all years of study and all academic faculties completed an online survey which included demographic information as well as measures of sense of belonging, mental health status, social connections and peer support systems, social media usage, perceived mental preparedness for the transition to work, and perceived importance of peer support and sense of belonging on mental health and overall wellbeing. The results of this study revealed a number of important findings related to the relationships between sense of belonging, peer support, and social media on school to work transitions and indicators of mental health and well-being. It was shown that student’s perceived sense of belonging to their peers and the university community and access to high quality peer support were strongly related to their overall mental health and well-being. Demographic factors were also found to be significantly related to sense of belonging, peer support, and confidence in school to work transitions, and students who participate in co-operative education were shown to have higher levels of school to work efficacy than non-co-op peers. The results revealed that students who reported a strong sense of belonging to school and peers were more likely to report experiencing greater emotional stability and that students who experienced a stronger sense of appraisal and belonging support within the campus community were more likely to report that they experienced better levels of mental balance and happiness. It was also found that while students perceived social media as playing an important role in their perceived sense of belonging and peer support, a high intensity of social media use was related to lower emotional stability in students. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.