Brexit and well-being: A survey of university students and staff
The project brings together all members of the research group in conducting social research of a political nature, which carries clear implications for public policy and wider society. The work follows on from the ‘Brexit and me’ events held by members of the group at the University of Salford and at the popular symposium we held at the 2019 annual conference of the British Psychological Society, which featured both Salford psychology graduates and colleagues. The symposium received coverage in The Psychologist and Peter Bull’s work featured on the front page of The Daily Telegraph the same day. A new book ‘Brexit in the workplace: A psychology of survival?’ (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020) is edited by Ashley Weinberg (the Research Group leader) and features a chapter by another group member, Ivett Racz.
Brexit is a major political event in all of our lives. What it represents appears intertwined with our emotions – regardless of political stance – but it is not clear which emotions are involved or indeed how these link with our wider well-being. In order to advance understanding of these issues, relationships between political perceptions and events linked to Brexit, and mood and well-being were explored in this study of students and academic staff.
Surveys were circulated at various student and staff events before the UK officially left the EU at the end of January 2020, as phase one of an intended longitudinal study and responses were obtained from almost 100 individuals.
Analysis of phase one cross-sectional data highlighted the most frequently reported feeling of ‘unease’ within 59% of the sample. Whilst Brexit perceptions did not show significant relationship with scores on a measure of well-being, there were significant differences in attitudes towards EU membership between those who categorised themselves as feeling ‘angry’ (36%) or ‘afraid’ (28%) as a result of Brexit and those who did not. Those reporting anger and fear over Brexit held significantly more favourable opinions towards the EU than those who did not share these emotions. In addition those reporting these negative emotions were also significantly more likely to feel the Brexit process, the inability of politicians to resolve their differences and the lack of politicians’ action over the environment were having a negative effect on their lives.
The study involves a modest university sample, however this involved participation from across the adult age range – which has been a recognised contributor in attitudes towards Brexit. This cross-sectional initial phase illustrates clear links between political perceptions and emotion in the sample. However the planned follow-up phase has been postponed in the advent of Coronavirus pandemic, given its similarly profound impact on well-being.
Team: Dr Ashley Weinberg, Professor Peter Bull, Dr Sharon Coen, Janine Crosbie, Dr Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Dr Clare Edge, Dr Michael Lomas, Lorna Paterson, Anne Pearson, Ivett Racz, Dr Fatemeh Sani-Pour, David Tate, Rachael Thompson, Dr Sara Vestergren