UBC Undergraduate Research

The Mental Health of First Generation and International Asian Female Students at University of British Columbia Schreiber, Chris; Dolatyar, Kambiz; MacKenzie, Avery; Lai, Jeremy


The mental health of first generation Asian female students at University of British Columbia (UBC) is a research project conducted by a group of UBC students, with a purpose to explore a problem that UBC Recreation (UBC REC) has been facing. Statistically, first generation Asian females at UBC have the lowest participation rate in UBC REC facilities, activities, and physical activity. It is stated that staying physically active has a strong correlation with reduced mental stress (Hamer, Stamatakis, and Steptoe, 2009). Therefore, this research project conducted semi-structured interviews with participants that fit this demographic to explore the precursors behind this existing problem and how the lack of participation affects the mental health and wellbeing of the participants. Furthermore, the project also seeked possible interventions that may help mitigate the issue of participation. The use of semi-structured interviews allows for open questions that encourage discussion, and the informal approach provides a comfortable and safe environment for participants to express their concerns. In the end, the results gathered three overarching findings: 1) The perception of mental/physical health compared to academics, 2) Varying perceptions of the mental health initiatives of UBC, and 3) The effect of school related workload and other determinants to mental/physical health. For the first finding, most of the participants expressed their priority for academics over their mental and physical health. With the differing emphasis upon academics and recreation between Western and Asian culture, the participants stated that academics was their purpose to attend university, not for recreation. The second finding found that most participants were unaware or have only experienced mental health services via second hand accounts, leading to an inconclusive consensus on the state of mental health programs offered by UBC. The misinformation about the mental health services offered by UBC may further hinder the mental health of this demographic and students, as individuals may not seek help they need. The third finding noted the heavy workloads students manage, further limiting the time available for individuals to partake in physical and mentally relaxing activities, whilst increasing day to day stress. This environment further strengthens the academic first mentality, as many participants noted that school related work took the majority of their time and energy. Based on these findings we believe UBC REC can look to improve the mental health of first generation Asian female students and other students, in a number of ways. UBC can further incentivise students by providing more opportunities and pathways to participate in exercise. This can be done through implementing more ‘free weeks’ for rec facility usage, as well as increasing outreach to students on social media platforms. Additionally, allowing access to recreational facilities like gymnasiums and dance studios during off hours can provide safe and ample space for students who live on campus to stay interactive. Finally, UBC REC can consider subsidizing costs for gym and class memberships. If subsidies are unattainable, a reward system can be implemented based on frequency of participation with UBC REC facilities and activities. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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