Situational analysis of the impact of student-rented houses on student mental health in a rural comprehensive university

The situation of mental health impact of student rented housing on rural university student is a complex phenomenon and need to be explored in multiple ecological systems. Using multiple theories, the study investigated the complex interrelated issues that affect the mental health of the student tenants in rented houses in a rural-based comprehensive university. Data were drawn from a qualitative study. A purposive sample of 30 students and 3 university professionals participated in the study. The data were collected through in-depth individual interviews and focus group discussions. Furthermore, some observations were done as part of the interviews to confirm what the students asserted during the interviews. The study found that the situation in the rented houses is not environmentally healthy in most of the rented houses; also, the security and safety of students are highly compromised by amadabuka. Secondly, the study established that students go through traumatic experiences that constantly affect their mental health. These experiences further affect the academic responsibilities of the students in that students’ laptops and phones that they use for studying get stolen. Thirdly, the study suggests that anxiety, fear, and depression due to compromised security were prevalent among the student tenants. Lastly, through an appreciative approach, the students suggested an ecological and interconnected approach to improving the situation in rented. Although the study was limited to a small sample and was undertaken in one university in a rural area, generalization of the findings is not possible. Yet, the findings have demonstrated practical implications for community housing developers, public health practitioners and researchers, student support and faculty members, higher education researchers and policymakers. These findings provide an opportunity for the designing of targeted interventions that will enhance the mental health of student tenants. Also, the finding provides a better lens to understand the mental health challenges of students in rented houses. In conclusion, the study makes a theoretical contribution in that the results help in articulating the underlying processes by which student-rented houses influence the mental health of students. Hence, helping in developing a better understanding of impactful intervention models.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in the fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Art in the department of Development Studies at the University of Zululand, South Africa, 2021.