Brain Sciences


First ever UCL-wide survey of student mental health and wellbeing launches

13 November 2019

A group of UCL students and researchers have collaborated to create SENSE, a short online survey which aims to contribute longitudinal data to the conversation on student mental health and wellbeing.

SENSE study logo

Young adulthood is a period of high risk for developing mental health problems. Seventy five percent of those who develop anxiety, depression, bipolar or substance use disorder in their lifetime will do so by the age of 24 years. However, these figures are from the general population and very little is known about mental health in the student population.

Over the last decade, the number of university students reporting that they are experiencing mental health problems has increased dramatically, alongside an apparent increase in deaths by suicide and a ‘noticeable increase in complex mental health crises’ reported by UK university staff. However, a lack of high-quality evidence makes it difficult to draw concrete conclusions regarding what impacts student mental health and how it can be improved. The SENSE survey hopes to change this.

The SENSE survey was developed by UCL PhD student Tayla McCloud and the wider SENSE team, including Professors Peter Fonagy (Psychology and Language Sciences), Glyn Lewis (Division of Psychiatry), Emla Fitzsimons (Centre for Longitudinal Studies) and Claire Callender (Institute of Education). The team are collecting data on factors such as finances, living situation and workload. They will then look at their impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety, loneliness and more.

The findings will be fed back to senior UCL staff and the Students’ Union. Professor Anthony Smith, UCL Vice-Provost (Education and Student Affairs) has voiced his support for the project, saying “I look forward to seeing the outputs of this research to improve our understanding of students’ needs and to ensure the support we offer is tailored to those needs.”

The SENSE team needs as many UCL students to complete the survey as possible, regardless of whether they have experienced mental health difficulties. The survey takes 10-15 minutes to complete and has been sent to all UCL students via email. If you are a student, please complete the SENSE survey before the end of term, and if you are a staff member, please encourage your students to complete the SENSE survey as soon as possible.