Exploration of health and health behaviours of undergraduate nursing students: a multi-methods study in two countries

Dawn M. Cameron*, Francesca Muratore, Marion Tower, Claire E. Eades, Josie M. M. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Nurses play a vital role in health promotion, and there may be a link between a nurse’s own lifestyle practices and how they educate others. Supporting health and well-being in student nurses is critical given they will be educating others once registered and practicing. Objectives: To explore the health and health behaviours of undergraduate nursing and midwifery students considering the demands of their profession, their public health role and their ability to be role models. Design: Multi-methods study. Methods: Undergraduate nursing students in the second and third years of their programme were invited to self-complete a health and health behaviour questionnaire in a Scottish and Australian Higher Education Institution. Qualitative data were collected from a convenience sample of 20 third-year nursing and midwifery students. Results: Two hundred and thirty-five Scottish students and 113 Australian students, 175 (85%) and 84 (74%), respectively, completed the questionnaire. Some differences and similarities were noted across groups, in particular, perceived physical health, the prevalence of binge drinking, smoking and being overweight/obese and some dietary measures were found to be less favourable among Scottish students. There were worryingly high levels of poor mental well-being at both higher education institutions, with scores on a mental well-being scale suggesting that (82) 34.7% of Scottish students and 33 (29.6%) of Australian students were at risk of depression. Nine Scottish students and 11 Australian students were interviewed. Key contributors and barriers to healthy behaviours were noted across both groups of students in relation to lifestyle. Students perceived that certain elements of their curriculum had implications on their ability or motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices. Conclusion: The poor health and health behaviours of future nurses need to be addressed in their higher education to shape resilient role models for future nursing practice. Impact Statement: Priority should be given to supportive learning environments for student nurses that foster emotional support and encourage healthy lifestyles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2085128
Pages (from-to)473-483
Number of pages11
JournalContemporary Nurse
Issue number5-6
Early online date31 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian
  • health
  • nurse
  • Scottish
  • student
  • education
  • health behaviour


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