The Influence of Social Values and Differing Socio-Cultural Norms on the Mental Health of Asian International Students in Australia

Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett2

2Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Mental health is one of the leading contemporary concerns about international students. An estimated 25 per cent of international students experience mental health problems. Mobility to unfamiliar environments can engender many health-related issues, particularly mental health. Correspondingly, recent evidence suggests that international student wellbeing is declining and is particularly pronounced in developed countries like Australia. Many factors are believed to contribute to this decline including loneliness, being away from family and friends, missing homecooked food and the often-unfamiliar academic environment international students are exposed to, and a reluctance to seek help when needed. The influences of culturally embedded social values have also been proposed as a possible detractor. Differences in understandings of mental health are considered in terms of collectivistic and individualistic value systems and how Asian international students navigate these frameworks while studying in individualistic environment like Australia. This presentation brings together the findings of two separate studies involving a total of 160 in depth interviews with key stakeholders and Asian international students. The findings will bring clarity to the way in which social values and differing socio-cultural norms influence the mental health of Asian international students.


Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett is Discipline Head of Sociology at Monash University and Deputy Director of the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre. Her work focuses on international student wellbeing and mental health, and migration and social inclusion. Helen is internationally known for her work undertaken in Australia, UK, US and China.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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