Well-Being in Academia


Providing a healthy work- and study environment has attracted increasing attention at universities, non-university research institutions, and higher education research. In line with the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, 1986), universities are viewed as a “setting”, i.e., as a specific living environment that affects the health of individuals through its organisational structure, an environment with typical health problems and health-promoting factors. Under the slogan “Healthy Campus”, a number of universities in Germany have established a health management system, have formed networks of “Health-promoting” or “Healthy Universities”, and implemented working groups. They are aiming at a high standard: the quality criteria for Health-promoting Universities (https://www.gesundheitsfoerdernde-hochschulen.de/arbeitspapiere) stipulate that health promotion be treated as a cross-sectional task to be incorporated in all administrative, educational and political processes. It is to include such fundamental aspects as sustainability, equal opportunities, inclusion, and cultural mainstreaming as part of a comprehensive diversity management.

But what exactly do we know about the physical and mental health and the well-being of people at universities? Empirical findings on the health risks and resources of the different status groups are limited. Students are the only group that has been relatively well researched: In recent years, a deterioration in students’ perceived state of health, an increase in stress, exhaustion, and psychological problems have been observed. However, there is little information on students’ physical health, i.e., aspects such as obesity or health-related absences from class. The data situation is even more inadequate for the status groups of early career researchers and senior researchers.

As a result, little is known about relevant causal relationships – what factors cause or exacerbate health problems at universities, what resources improve well-being, and in what way? Another question concerns the role of relevant contextual and conditional factors for the health situation (e.g., internationalisation, contract situation, workload). Moreover, we lack analyses and evaluations of the effectiveness of health-promoting measures.

Given these limited findings, the programs offered by Healthy or Health-promoting Universities appear to lack a sufficient empirical basis. Back training, yoga, mindfulness courses, leadership training, and counselling on various topics are helpful measures individuals can benefit from. However, it is uncertain whether and to what extent they can address and compensate for stressful systemic factors.

Against this background, various research questions on the topic of Well-Being in Academia remain to be answered, for example:

  • What role does the topic of Well-Being in Academia play at universities?
  • What programs for health promotion do universities offer? Who makes use of these programs and how? Are they perceived as helpful? Which health-promoting measures prove to be particularly effective?
  • How is the health of the various status groups at universities, particularly that of science-supporting staff and researchers? What developments can be observed? Which risk factors affect health and well-being, and to what extent? What resources may counteract the burdens?
  • Do health and well-being vary with socio-demographic characteristics (gender, educational background, age, migration background, family situation)? Which groups are particularly affected (positively or negatively)?
  • Do stressful factors and health problems impact the performance and output of different status groups?
  • What exactly are the factors that cause or exacerbate health problems? Which resources improve well-being in what way?
  • Can health-promoting measures redress the effects of systemic factors and higher education policy (Bologna Process, New Public Management)?

  • We look forward to submissions in English that present theoretical or empirical research or systematic research overviews, preferably with an international perspective. Please send your informative abstract (maximum 500 characters including spaces) by 12 April 2024 to

    Concept of the anthology

  • 200-250 pages, to be published in the DZHW series Higher Education Research and Science Studies (HERSS) at VS Verlag, editors: Anja Gottburgsen, Yvette E. Hofmann, Monika Jungbauer-Gans
  • about 12 contributions of max. 25 pages each (including the list of references and appendix)
  • peer-reviewing (mutual)

  • Call for Abstracts




    Anja Gottburgsen
    Dr. Anja Gottburgsen +49 511 450670-912

    Press contact

    Filiz Gülal
    Dr. Filiz Gülal +49 511 450670-939
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