Relationship Between Academic Environment and the Mental Health of Students

Raymond Cheung ‘22

Figure 1. A high-achieving academic environment may promote negative emotions in underperforming students.

Researchers at the University of Munich and other universities analyzed the effect of a high-achieving environment on the mental health of students. Their work is vital because it provides insight into how a high-performing environment can harm the academic development and mental wellbeing of students. In the study, the researchers analyzed the responses of over 7,700 German school students with regards to their positive/negative emotions and academic achievement measured by test results.

The researchers found that students’ academic achievement and positive emotions were positively related. In other words, students who performed better than the average performance of their peers often reported more positive emotions. Conversely, the opposite holds true for negative emotions; students who were in classes with top performers and performed below them often reported more negative emotions. These findings identify an essential relationship between one’s academic environment and their emotions, because the emotions may have a compounding effect that hinders a student’s academic achievement. For instance, a below-performing student may be further discouraged if surrounded by top performers.

The findings of their study also contribute to knowledge about the development of fixed and growth mindsets in students. A fixed mindset is a perception that one’s intelligence is static and this study identifies how one’s environment may influence their perception towards their academic intelligence. Further exploration of the effect of academic environments is essential in ensuring the mental well-being of academically developing students.

  1. P. Reinhard, et. al., Happy fish in little ponds: Testing a reference group model of achievement and emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (2019). doi: 10.1037/pspp0000230.  
  2. Image retrieved from:

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