Higher Education

, 55:51 | Cite as

The health and wellbeing of international students at an Australian university

  • Doreen Anne Rosenthal
  • Jean Russell
  • Garry Thomson
Original Paper


A representative sample of undergraduate and postgraduate international students at a large Australian university (n=979, 64% females) completed a mail-back survey of their health and wellbeing. Most students evaluated their current and previous physical and mental health positively. Health-related risk practices such as unprotected sexual activity, drug use, smoking and gambling, were reported by few students. There was little change in health or risk behaviours since coming to Australia and few changes that were health compromising. Few demographic or situational variables, including age and gender, had a significant impact on students' wellbeing. This study has revealed that few international students find the experience of studying in an overseas country detrimental to their wellbeing. Nevertheless, for those students who encounter difficulties or are at increased risk of health-compromising outcomes, we must ensure better delivery of health promotion education, and access to, and use of, available counselling and health services.


International students Mental health Physical health Risk practices Sexual health Substance use Wellbeing 


  1. Adler, P. S. (1975). The transitional experience: An alternative view of culture shock. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15, 13–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Australian Institute of Health, Welfare (2003). Australia’s young people: Their health and well-being. Canberra: AIHW.Google Scholar
  3. Barnes, G. M., Welte, J. W., Hoffman, J. H., & Dintcheff, B. A. (2005). Shared predictors of youthful gambling, substance use, and delinquency. Psychology of Addictive Behaviours, 19, 165–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Church, A. T. (1982). Sojourner adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 540–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Constantine, M. G., Anderson, G. M., Berkel, L. A., Caldwell, L. D., & Utsey, S. O. (2005). Examining the cultural adjustment experiences of African international college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Constantine, M. G., Kindaichi, M., Okazaki, S., Gainor, K. A., & Baden, A. L. (2005). A qualitative investigation of the cultural adjustment experiences of Asian international college women. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 11, 162–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cooper, M. L., Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Mudar, P. (1995). Drinking to regulate positive and negative emotions: A motivational model of alcohol use. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 990–1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Department of Education, Science, Training (2005). Students 2004 (full year): Selected higher education statistics. Canberra: DEST.Google Scholar
  9. Department of Education, Training, Youth Affairs (2001). Students 2000: Selected higher education statistics. Canberra: DETYA.Google Scholar
  10. Desiderato, L. L., & Crawford, H. J. (1995). Risky sexual behavior in college students: Relationships between number of sexual partners, disclosure of previous risky behavior, and alcohol use. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deumert, A., Marginson, S., Nyland, C., Ramia, G., & Sawir, E. (in press). The social and economic security of foreign students in Australia. Journal of Global Social Policy.Google Scholar
  12. Grey, M. (2002). Drawing with a difference: Challenges faced by international students in an undergraduate business degree. Teaching in Higher Education, 7, 153–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Griffiths, M., & Sutherland, I. (1998). Adolescent gambling and drug use. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 8, 423–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hakim, W. (2004). Psychological health of international students in higher education: Factors influencing Indonesian students. Dissertation, Masters in Women’s Health. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.Google Scholar
  15. Hawton, K., Hall, S., Simkin, S., Bale, L., Bond, A., Codd, & Stewart, A. (2003). Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: A study of characteristics and trends in Oxford, 1990–2000. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 1191–1198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holahan, C. J., Moos, R. H., Holahan, C. K., Cronkite, R. C., & Randall, P. K. (2001). Drinking to cope, emotional distress and alcohol use and abuse: A ten-year model. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62, 190–198.Google Scholar
  17. Kazdin, A. E. (1993). Adolescent mental health: Prevention and treatment programs. American Psychologist, 48, 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Keeling, R. P. (2002). Binge drinking and the college environment. Journal of American College Health, 50, 197–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Laye-Gindhu, A., & Schonert-Reichl, K A. (2005). Nonsuicidal self-harm among community adolescents: Understanding the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of self-harm. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 447–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (Psychology Foundation Monograph). Sydney: School of Psychology, University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  21. Mori, S. (2000). Addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78, 137–144.Google Scholar
  22. Muehlenkamp, J. J., & Gutierrez, P. M. (2004). An investigation of the differences between self-injurious behavior and suicide attempts in a sample of adolescents. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 34, 12–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Connor , R. M., & Colder, C. R. (2005). Predicting alcohol patterns in first-year college students through motivational systems and reasons for drinking. Psychology of Addictive Behaviours, 19, 10–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rosenthal, D. A., Russell, V. J., & Thomson, G. D. (2006). A growing experience: The health and well-being of international students at The University of Melbourne. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.Google Scholar
  25. Sandhu, D. S., & Asrabadi, B. R. (1994). Development of an acculturative stress scale for international students: Preliminary findings. Psychological Reports, 75, 435–448.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, A. M. A, Agius, P., Dyson, S., Mitchell, A., & Pitts, M. (2003). Secondary students and sexual health 2002. Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University.Google Scholar
  27. Smith, A. M. A., de Visser, R., Akande, A., Rosenthal, D. A., & Moore, S. M. (1998). Australian and South African undergraduates’ HIV-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 27, 279–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stinchfield, R. (2000). Gambling and correlates of gambling among Minnesota public school students. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16, 153–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Struthers, C. W., Perry, R. P., & Menec, V. H. (2000). An examination of the relationship among academic stress, coping, motivation, and performance in college. Research in Higher Education, 41, 581–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., Ladouceur, R., & Tremblay, R. E. (2001). Gambling, delinquency, and drug use during adolescence: Mutual influences and common risk factors. Journal of Gambling Studies, 17, 171–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ward, C. (1997). Culture learning, acculturative stress, and psychopathology: Three perspectives on acculturation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46, 58–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ward, C., & Low, M. (2004). Personality and sojourner adjustment: An exploration of the Big Five and the cultural fit proposition. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 137–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ward, C., Okura, A., Kennedy, A., & Kojima, T. (1998). The U-curve on trial: A longitudinal study of psychological and sociocultural adjustment during cross-cultural transition. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 22, 277–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ward, C., & Rana-Deuba, A. (1999). Acculturation and adaptation revisited. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 30, 422–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Women’s Health Australia (2002). Data book for the 2000 Phase 2 survey of the young cohort (22–27 years): Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Newcastle: The Research Centre for Gender and Health, University of Newcastle.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doreen Anne Rosenthal
    • 1
  • Jean Russell
    • 1
  • Garry Thomson
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Centre for Women’s Health in SocietyThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations