Mental health and wellbeing of Pacific students : Protocol of a prospective cohort study

Main Article Content

Faafetai Sopoaga
Shyamala Nada-Raja
Tracie Leckie
Ari Samaranayaka


Pacific health, Mental health, Wellbeing, Protocol, Cohort



Mental disorders are a significant health concern and an increasing burden for Pacific youth in New Zealand. Approximately 30,000 (30%) of Pacific youth aged 18-24 years are enrolled in tertiary studies with sparse information about their mental health and wellbeing. There is increasing recognition of the impact of stresses and emotional problems faced by students in tertiary institutions internationally. This study seeks to describe Pacific tertiary students’ mental health and wellbeing, their expectations and experiences. It seeks also to determine risk and protective factors, access and barriers to using health services and their impact on students’ academic progress.


All Pacific students enrolling for the first time and in their first year of study at the University of Otago in 2019 will be invited to participate and followed over 3 years. A mixed-method research approach will be used with a survey obtaining information from all eligible students. Of these, 30 students will be randomly selected to participate in four interviews over the study period. Research objectives will be addressed by using quantitative statistical methods to analyse cross-sectional and longitudinal self-reported data linked to administrative data.  The Talanoa methodology  and a thematic approach will inform qualitative data collection and analysis.   

Findings/Outcomes measure

The primary mental health measures are the Kessler 10 (distress), PHQ-9 (depression) and the GAD-7 (anxiety). The primary wellbeing measure utilises a validated Pacific Identity and Wellbeing (PIWBS-R) scale and the WHO-5 (subjective wellbeing). Secondary measures include alcohol use, students’ experience and academic progress.  Interviews will provide in-depth perspectives of the students’ journeys, and the relationship to their mental health and wellbeing including the impact on students’ academic progress.


This research seeks to better understand the factors that influence the mental health, wellbeing and academic success of Pacific students in tertiary institutions. The findings will be used to inform advocacy approaches and guide targeted support efforts.

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