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Young people are burnt out post-pandemic: the most comprehensive study yet into how to help them

Published: 26 September 2023

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A young person wearing a hoodie with their head in their hands

Burnout is common among students and can lead to a lack of motivation, reduced performance and poor wellbeing. However, there is currently little consensus about how parents, teachers and policymakers can help.

Now researchers from the School of Science, Technology and Health at York St John University have led the largest study to date about how to intervene effectively. The new study, produced in partnership with the University of York, provides a comprehensive overview of ways of targeting student burnout and how beneficial they can be. The team hopes this will inform policies and practices that can support student wellbeing.

Academics examined data on interventions for ~2,500 students from secondary and tertiary levels of education, from the age of 11 to early adulthood. They found that different interventions showed varying degrees of effectiveness in reducing burnout symptoms.

Mindfulness, psychoeducation, and exercise were all found to be moderately helpful, however there was one intervention that produced standout results compared to the others. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), a type of cognitive therapy that focuses on challenging irrational beliefs, was shown to have the largest effect sizes in reducing burnout.

Lead author Dr Daniel Madigan, Professor of Sport and Health Psychology at York St John University said: “Increasing levels of student burnout are well documented and there are increasing concerns about mental and physical health issues as a result.

“This age group were hit hard by the pandemic, with disruptions like social isolation, remote learning and uncertainty about the future likely contributing to increased stress and burnout.

“With this study we want to offer clear information for policymakers, parents, teachers and anyone interested in addressing student burnout and promoting a healthier educational environment.”

Dr Lisa Kim, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Psychology in Education at the University of York said: “We hope this study is informative in understanding the types and characteristics of interventions that can most effectively help students in reducing burnout.

“As we have noted in the paper, we hope that educators and researchers are able to invest more time and other resources to help prevent student burnout, including reflecting on the ways schools and universities teach and assess their students.”         

Read the full study Interventions to reduce burnout in students: A systematic review and meta-analysis in The European Journal of Psychology of Education


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