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Stress prevention and well-being among students at CBS

Stress among Students: a larger Societal Concern

"For a long while, I saw how the number of students feeling stressed out just kept climbing" - Pernille Steen Pedersen
Stress among students is a growing problem, which poses pressing challenges to higher education institutions and society in general. According to statistics by the National Health Profile’s latest study from 2017, in the age group 16-24 the proportion of young people with poor mental health has increased from 12% to 18% in a seven-year period. A survey from 2015 showed that more than half of CBS students felt stressed. If there is an increasing tendency of stress related challenges for students, then what is the situation among students at CBS today? The project “Stress prevention and well-being among students at CBS” will over a three-year period look deeper into this question. Starting 1. February 2021, the project set out to detail the current issues of stress for CBS students and to explore how and under what conditions CBS as a university can work proactively with stress prevention. The initiator of the project Pernille Steen Pedersen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Management, Politics, and Philosophy, has worked extensively with the topic of stress in different settings and research projects. Pedersen's research has shown a connection between work-related stress and the notion of shame, which is used to make an exposition of a particular but relevant type of stress and then try to describe challenges but also joint solutions from that side. With this research project she wishes to describe and explore stress and well-being among students undergoing university education with the use of the notion of shame: “Everyone thinks they know what stress among students is about, but I am not so sure! I doubt that we have a picture that is comprehensive enough. I want to work with this, to understand more about stress and well-being among students, and I want to address this topic from a place of curiosity and exploration; from an attitude that we don't know yet what we are dealing with”, Pedersen says about her approach to the project.

Anchored at Department of Management, Politics & Philosophy

The research project is based at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP) but carried out in close collaboration with students and the Study Administration of CBS. The anchoring at MPP accentuates the interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approach of the project that weights undertaking the research in a collaborative manner with a diverse group of people across disciplines, staff functions, and backgrounds. In addition, the exploratory project methodology ensures a broad approach to allow for stress among students to be studied and addressed in new ways. MPP has a long tradition for research and education that crosses boundaries and connects diverse perspectives with a unique focus on the study of the human and of social organization. In this manner, MPP contributes to CBS as a place for research and education connecting business with socially relevant studies in the humanities and social sciences. Two overarching visions define the scope and direction of the work within MPP:
  • A critical, compassionate and creative intellectual endeavors define and enhance humanity within business and social organization as a transformational potential for society, for the students and for ourselves.
  • A place where diverse disciplines meet key stakeholders in business, government and civil society in an effort to understand the radically transformative processes affecting individuals and society.
Pernille Steen Pedersen’s research initiative "Stress prevention and well-being among students at CBS" contributes to CBS’s strategy implementation as well as the MPP vision. Stress prevention and well-being for students is an important focus area for CBS, but the issue reaches far beyond CBS across the Danish society, and international ones. In Denmark there has been a rise in reported stress among students constituting a social problem that requires attention. Any research that can help provide detailed knowledge and further understanding of how students experience stress thus contributes into a larger societal need. The objectives of the "Stress prevention and well-being” research projects falls in line with MPP’s visions for the “transformational potential for society, for our students and for ourselves”. With this transformational purpose in mind, Pedersen has designed a research methodology and collaborative approach aimed at working “where diverse disciplines meet key stakeholders” – as a means to not only understand potentials for transformations but in order to initiate them within this network. While the research network primarily reaches across disciplines, functions and units within CBS, it also includes external experts and stakeholders.

The larger Project Vision

The project “Stress Prevention and well-being among students at CBS” is a cross-cutting thematic initiative within research and education at CBS. Its main aim is to understand issues concerning stress among students at CBS and to develop measures that prevents stress and improve well-being for the students. Since stress among students is an acute societal challenge, which impact not only the study environment but also peoples’ lives, learning abilities and well-being – this initiative centers around a core inquiry: how can a university proactively work with stress prevention? The overarching vision of the project is to provide a novel approach to stress among students and the research hereof, and on this basis advance new measures of stress prevention. Central to this approach is an understanding of stress as a complex relational phenomenon, that cannot be reduced to an issue of the individual. Therefore to explore and address it necessitates a collaborative approach and effort. This includes measures that help strengthen emotional capabilities and resilience of students and provide opportunities for self-reflection and self-transformation; with a particular focus on how students can support and strengthen each other in this process. It is not common practice within the Danish educational system to proactively support such capabilities, but since they are crucial to enhance learning, collaboration and for coping with the challenges in modern work life, this project seeks to change this tendency and suggest some novel methods.

Last updated by: Anne Sofie Fischer, Pernille Pedersen 01/06/2021