Skip to main content

Exploring the effects and benefits of a pilot school-based happiness mentoring programme with polytechnic students in Singapore


The state of mental health and related high rates of depression in youth is a growing concern worldwide. Some populations, however, seem to be more vulnerable than others; and this is the case with polytechnic students in Singapore. Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) have been found to enhance the level of happiness and well-being of students when delivered in the school context. Intervention efforts have often been limited to a single or two to three PPI activities and rarely offered as a consolidated programme with multiple PPIs that would allow students to identify and adopt strategies that would best support their well-being. This quasi-experimental pilot study tested the effects of a school-based happiness mentoring programme largely based on the PERMA model on a small sample of full-time students of a polytechnic in Singapore. Over a period of 10 weeks, the programme conducted by a mentor offered multiple PPIs aimed at enhancing participating students’ level of happiness, well-being and student life satisfaction. While no statistically significant differences between the experimental and control groups were reported at pre- and post-intervention, statistically significant differences were found within each group. The results of paired t-tests showed significant statistical improvements in all variables within the experimental group, but the control group did not show significant within group improvements in Engagement, Meaning, Accomplishment and Student Life Satisfaction. These findings were supported by post-intervention structured interviews during which students reported having benefitted from specific PPIs in enhancing self-awareness, awareness of others and acquisition of several strategies that build positive emotions to sustain their well-being. Implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions for future research provided.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Data Availability

The datasets generated for and analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  1. Adler, A. (2016). Teaching well-being increases academic performance: Evidence from Bhutan, Mexico, and Peru [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Pennsylvania.

  2. Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Penguin.

  3. Butler, J., & Kern, M. L. (2016). The PERMA-Profiler: A brief multidimensional measure of flourishing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(3), 1–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Collings, R., Swanson, V., & Watkins, R. (2014). The impact of peer mentoring on levels of student wellbeing, integration and retention: A controlled comparative evaluation of residential students in UK higher education. Higher Education, 68(6), 927–942.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Crisp, D. A., Rickwood, D., Martin, B., & Byrom, N. (2020). Implementing a peer support program for improving university student wellbeing: The experience of program facilitators. Australian Journal of Education, 64(2), 113–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Datu, J. A. D. (2018). Flourishing is associated with higher academic achievement and engagement in Filipino undergraduate and high school students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(1), 27–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. DuBois, D. L., Portillo, N., Rhodes, J. E., Silverthorn, N., & Valentine, J. C. (2011). How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(2), 57–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Hachette Book Group.

  10. Fernandes-Alcantara, A. L. (2018). Vulnerable youth: Federal mentoring programs and issues. Congressional Research Services Report for Congress. Retrieved from

  11. Fontane-Pennock, S., & Alberts, H. (2019, January 10). The Wheel of Life. Retrieved from

  12. Fredrickson, B. L. (2000). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & Treatment, 3(1), 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in Positive Psychology: The broaden and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367–1377.

    Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1241–1259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gosline, A. (2007/2008). Bored? Scientific American Mind, 18(6), 20–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Grey, L. (2019). The impact of school-based mentoring on the academic achievement gap. Professional School Counselling, 23(1), 2156759X1989025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Guo, Y. (2016). Analyzing the impact of peer mentoring on levels of international student wellbeing and integration in Australia. Research & Reviews: Journal of Educational Studies, 2(3), 41–47.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hidayat, R., Habibi, A., Mohd Saad, M. R., Mukminin, A., & Wan Idris, W. I. (2018). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of PERMA for Indonesian students in mathematics education programmes. Pedagogika, 132(4), 147–165. doi: 10.15823/p.2018.132.9

  20. Karcher, M. J., Davis III, C., & Powell, B. (2002). The effects of developmental mentoring on connectedness and academic achievement. School Community Journal, 12(2), 35–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kern, M. L., Benson, L., Steinberg, E. A., & Steinberg, L. (2016). The EPOCH measure of adolescent well-being. Psychological Assessment, 28(5), 586–597.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Kern, M. L., Waters, L. E., Adler, A., & White, M. A. (2015). A multidimensional approach to measuring well-being in students: Application of the PERMA framework. The journal of positive psychology, 10(3), 262–271.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Le, D. N. L. (2016). The effectiveness of a positive psychology intervention on self-esteem and coping strategies of academically at-risk students [Unpublished master’s dissertation]. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  24. Leskisenoja, E., & Uusiautti, S. (2017). How to increase joy at school? Findings from a positive-psychological intervention at a Northern-Finnish school. Education in the North, 24(2), 36–55.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Lewis-Beck, M., Bryman, A. E., & Liao, T. F. (2004). The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods. Sage Publications.

  26. Lim, M. H. F. (2007). An exploratory study of students ' positivity in Singapore [Unpublished master’s dissertation]. National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  27. Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K., & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: An experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being. Emotion, 11(2), 391–402.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. A. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112–127.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. McHugh, M. L. (2012). Interrater reliability: The kappa statistic. Biochemia Medica, 22(3), 276–282. doi: 10.11613/BM.2012.031

  30. Määttä, K., & Uusiautti, S. (2013). Parental love — Irreplaceable for children’s well-being. In Many Faces of Love (pp. 85-92). Sense Publishers.

  31. Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do positive psychology exercises work? A replication of Seligman et al.’s (2005). Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 382–389.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The concept of flow. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239-263). Springer.

  33. National Youth Council. (2018). The state of youth in Singapore 2018 – Research compilation. Retrieved from

  34. Niemiec, R. M. (2015). New ways to happiness with strengths. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

  35. Norrish, J. M., Williams, P., O’Connor, M., & Robinson, J. (2013). An applied framework for positive education. International Journal of Wellbeing, 3(2), 147–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 361–375.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  37. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2006). A life worth living: Contributions to positive psychology. Oxford University Press.

  38. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press.

  39. Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Senf, K., & Liau, A. K. (2013). The effects of positive interventions on happiness and depressive symptoms, with an examination of personality as a moderator. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(2), 591–612.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467–487.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., & Stahl, K. J. (1997). The development and validation of the Children’s Hope Scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22(3), 399–421.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Tay, R. J. R. (2013). The effects of ‘3 good things’ activity in secondary school students [Unpublished master’s dissertation]. National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  44. Thompson, L. A., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2001). The impact of mentoring on academic achievement of at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 23(3), 227–242.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. World Health Organization. (2018). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved from

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cédric David Metrat-Depardon.

Ethics declarations

Ethics Approval

It needs to be noted that this research study was conducted as part of a Master-in-Education (Developmental Psychology) programme at a Singapore university where the first author was pursuing his postgraduate degree. Ethics approval was obtained from the University’s IRB.

Consent to participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


• Ten positive psychology interventions (PPIs) activities fostering happiness and well-being and based on the PERMA model (Seligman, 2011) were assembled to create a happiness mentoring programme;

• This programme was conducted over 10 weeks for a sample of tertiary students at a polytechnic in Singapore;

• The quasi-experimental   pilot study did not report significant differences between experimental and control group at pre- and post-test;

• The intervention reported more significant within-group gains for the experimental group than for the control group;

• The experimental group showed significant gains in Engagement, Meaning, Accomplishment and Student Life Satisfaction;

• Results of the post-intervention structured interviews show that the students in the experimental group seemed to have personally benefitted from the programme;

• Results and limitations are discussed (within group and between groups statistical gains, maturation effect, adherence to programme activities);

• Suggestions for future research is given in terms of structured PPIs to further explore and ascertain possible effects on adolescents’ happiness, life satisfaction and flourishing.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Metrat-Depardon, C.D., Teo, C.T. Exploring the effects and benefits of a pilot school-based happiness mentoring programme with polytechnic students in Singapore. Curr Psychol (2021).

Download citation


  • Happiness
  • Mentoring
  • Positive psychology interventions
  • School-based intervention
  • Well-being
  • Youth