Working towards a healthy adult life

While there are risks in working too much while studying, work itself also creates opportunities for development and learning that facilitate the transition to adult life.

While there are risks in working too much while studying, work itself also creates opportunities for development and learning that facilitate the transition to adult life.

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In 5 seconds

UdeM professors Nancy Beauregard and Véronique Dupéré are investigating the impact of balancing studies, work and personal life on students’ mental health.

Véronique Dupéré and Nancy Beauregard

Véronique Dupéré and Nancy Beauregard

Credit: Amélie Philibert, Université de Montréal

Working many hours per week can be detrimental to young people’s academic performance and well-being, but studies that explore the positive impacts of work on mental health are few and far between.

Two Université de Montréal professors are working to change that.

Nancy Beauregard of the School of Industrial Relations and Véronique Dupéré of the School of Psychoeducation are looking at how students are able to balance work, family and social commitments, and how the balancing affects their mental health.

Beauregard and Dupéré are associated with Myriagone, the McConnell-Université de Montréal Research Chair on Youth Knowledge Mobilization, which brings together researchers and partners from a variety of backgrounds, including youth partners.

“We’re interested in the mental health of young people as they transition to adulthood through their studies and their work,” explained Beauregard. “It is an important stage in their journey. In our approach, we consider various aspects of their lives.”

Working with colleagues in the education, public health and youth non-profit sectors, they are also looking at how working affects teens. In the spring of 2023, they presented a brief on Bill 19, legislation to regulate work by children aged 16 and under.

A cross-sectoral project

Supported by the Centre de recherche en santé publique, their collaboration extends to a cross-sectoral project on work-study balance launched jointly by Montreal’s public health department and the Montreal Hooked-on-School Coalition.

Beauregard and Dupéré also recently joined the Observatoire sur la santé mentale étudiante en enseignement supérieur, a new observatory on the mental health of post-secondary students launched in February 2023.

At the observatory, co-directed by Julie Lane of Université de Sherbrooke and Benjamin Gallais of Cégep de Jonquière, Beauregard and Dupéré head up research on balancing work, studies and personal life.

“Our project is just starting up,” said Dupéré.

“We’re studying CEGEP and university students who are working and also those who have completed their studies and are now entering the labour market. We're examining multiple profiles to identify promising work-life balance practices and how they can be supported.”

“One important point that has emerged at this stage," added Beaurgeard, "is that while there are risks to working too much while going to school, working also creates opportunities for learning and development that support the transition to adult life.

“We want to see how working allows young people to enhance their skills and helps instill values that are transferable to their academic pursuits, and how balancing the two can also promote health.”

Work can play a positive role

Recently published doctoral research suggests that work can play a positive role and support mental health as long as the number of hours worked is compatible with other areas of life, and the type of work is linked to the student’s professional aspirations and desired career.

In one of her research projects, on the psychosocial work environment of young people, done in collaboration with the youth advocacy group Force jeunesse, Beauregard is studying 15 CEGEP and university students to see how they perceive workplace stressors.

“Using the Photovoice method, we'll be asking them to post photos of their stressors at work,” she explained. “It's a democratic process that allows them to name and understand the various situations they experience, and to discuss their perspectives with others.”

Beauregard wants to highlight the psychosocial risks of work for young people in order to make them aware of the stressors, which, she said, “can sometimes be vague and abstract.”

“This project is being carried out in the new legal environment created by the modernization of Quebec's Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety,” she noted.

“Psychosocial risks in the workplace must now be identified, controlled and mitigated to promote health and safety. It is important to see how work stressors affect young people, and we are confident that this research project will support the development of other initiatives aimed at improving the mental health of young workers.”

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