Ashton Human, Laura Cameron, Erin K. Howie, Jillian Prince, Kaitlin M. Gallagher

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

While research demonstrates that undergraduate students experience mental and physical health concerns, engineering students appear to be at a greater risk of compromised health compared to students in other degree programs. Research shows that engineering students are twice as likely to display depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when compared to students in other fields of study. Due to increased academic expectations, only 40% of engineering students complete their program of study, and around 43% migrate to other disciplines. These expectations also increase time spent sitting at a computer, writing papers, or reading which can compete with activities that promote healthy behaviors. Thus, the purpose of this systematic review was to investigate the effect of enrollment in an engineering program on health outcomes of engineering students in North America, with a secondary outcome assessing the impact of health-based interventions on this population. The PRISMA 2009 checklist was used to guide the methodology and reporting for this review. Inclusion criteria were any study conducted in North America that assessed health-related outcomes and investigated undergraduate engineering students. Abstracts of 176 papers were screened for relevance, data was extracted from relevant papers, and a risk of bias assessment was conducted for both quantitative and qualitative papers. Twenty papers met the criteria and 7 of these included interventions. Results demonstrate that different forms stress and anxiety, as well as depression, exist among undergraduate engineering students; however, there was limited evidence suggesting the relationship between mental health measures and other variables such as grade point average and levels of physical activity within this population. Intervention studies indicated that peer mentoring was efficacious in decreasing anxiety and improving academic performance. There is limited evidence regarding the investigation of self-efficacy, a construct integral to behavior change, and physical activity which has been demonstrated to improve multiple facets of health. Future work should further investigate self-efficacy and physical activity to improve the health of undergraduate engineering students and enrich their overall college experience.

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