A latent profile analysis of psychosocial factors and trauma exposure in UK students and their association with mental health and academic persistence

Sarah F. Allen*, Stacie Thursby, Laura Elkwood, Nikki L. Carthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The prevalence of previous trauma exposure among university students is widespread. Trauma can have a serious impact on students’ mental health, university experience, and academic persistence. This is the first study to use latent profile analysis to assess how differing levels of psychosocial variables combine with trauma exposure to draw together psychological profiles among university students. Method: N=452 UK students completed a battery of questionnaires from a cross-sectional survey examining the number of traumatic events and psychosocial factors (loneliness, social support, self-efficacy, coping strategies, personality, and resilience) to determine mental health and academic persistence. Results: A latent profiling analysis obtained a five-profile solution, demonstrating a unique combination of psychosocial factors and trauma exposure: Distressed (11.2%), Thriving (31.4%), Vulnerable (19.5%), Flourishing (3.5%), Diffident (34.4%). ANOVAs were used to compare scores on the anxiety and depression measures and academic persistence measures between the participants within each profile. Significant differences among profiles were present with the Distressed profile being more at risk for mental health and academic issues and the Flourishing profile demonstrating high levels of trauma exposure and a positive academic experience. Conclusions: Given that there is a large proportion of students in higher education reporting previous traumatic experiences, trauma-informed principles are warranted, with a focus on supporting staff to understand the impact of trauma on students’ experiences, in an inclusive and non-judgmental way. This study provides a model of the factors involved in fostering psychological well-being and positive university experiences for students who have experienced trauma
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Jul 2024

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