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How Dublin City University is prioritizing wellbeing

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Dublin City University student, Conn Byrne

Mental and physical health and wellbeing have come into ever sharper focus since the beginning of the pandemic.

In January 2021, a Dublin City University Students’ Union survey of almost 2,000 students found that more than 80% felt alone more often than not in the past two years, and that over half found their college workload unmanageable.

This follows on from research published by the Union of Students in Ireland. Their National Report on Student Mental Health in Third Level Education found that one third of students have clinically relevant levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Last year, students at Dublin City University were given a Fitbit Versa 3 smartwatch to see how even small changes they made to their exercise, sleep and nutrition impacted their overall wellness. The participants in the course, called FLOURISH, reported improved aspects of their sleep (70.5%), healthier food habits (70.5%) and better understanding of their personal health and fitness data (93%).

The 5-credit module was focused on student wellbeing and it was led by Professor Alan Smeaton. In the report findings, you can see how the course delivered practical tips to 169 students for everyday wellness. It also helped students’ digital literacy, specifically the awareness of personal health and fitness data, and its potential for developing healthier habits.

Dublin based computing student Conn Byrne told us about his experience taking part in the course:

Why did you choose to do the FLOURISH course?

I wanted to learn more about how technology can help me better understand my health and fitness.

How did the FLOURISH course help improve your overall wellness?

I learned how small changes can affect my daily mood. Being on Fitbit kept me conscious of my healthy habits on a daily basis, not just when studying the course. I have now set a step goal, which I aim to reach daily. This has helped me to keep active, move regularly and push that little bit harder to get out there and stay fit.

Did you find using sleep data benefited your sleep routine overall?

I learned that sleep is one of the most important things for our bodies, and how it helps us to recover from almost everything that impacts us. Learning how easy it is to track and understand my sleep quality and the ways I can help improve my sleep was hugely eye-opening.

Have you changed any of your habits since doing the module?

I was able to track my physical activity, which is something I’ve always been interested in, and to see how to change certain lifestyle habits like taking more steps helped my mental goals as well. Being more intentional with my physical health will certainly help me going forward.

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