Focusing on the Positive: An Examination of the Relationships between Flourishing Mental Health, Self-Reported Academic Performance, and Psychological Distress in a National Sample of College Students

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Schrader, Lisa
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Middle Tennessee State University
Mental illness and psychological distress have increased greatly among college students such that college counseling centers are unable to keep up with the swelling demand. To stem this tide, upstream prevention strategies will be necessary, but any potential strategy will likely need a connection to academic success to achieve full buy-in for a comprehensive, institution-wide implementation. Using a retrospective, cross-sectional research design, this study, grounded in a dual continua model of mental health, examines how positive mental health may impact student academic performance and be related to psychological distress. Prior research in this area has been limited to inquiries focused on students at a single institution and thus has limited generalizability. To address that gap, this research study uses aggregate data from a national sample of college students who completed the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment III (ACHA-NCHA III) in the Spring 2022 semester. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was performed to determine the impact of flourishing mental health as measured by the Flourishing Scale on students’ self-reported overall GPA. Additionally, correlation analysis was completed to determine the direction and degree of relationship between flourishing mental health and psychological distress. Results indicate that flourishing mental health has a direct and highly significant relationship to academic performance and that flourishing mental health has a strong inverse relationship to psychological distress. The implications of these findings to student success research, policy, and practice are addressed.
Academic performance, College students, Flourishing, Psychological distress, Student success, Well-being, Mental health, Public health, Psychology