Previous research indicated that more post migration living problems (PMLP), lower levels of social support and higher levels of rumination increased the risk for depression in international students. Lower self-esteem has also shown to be a predictor in developing depression. The present cross-sectional study investigated the relationship between post migration living problems, social support, rumination and depression mediated by self-esteem in an international student population in the Netherlands. We hypothesized that more PMLP’s, lower levels of social support and higher levels of rumination would lead to higher levels of depression. Our study was the first to explore the associations between PMLP’s, social support, rumination and depression via self-esteem.
A sample of 76 international students (58% males, age range 18-26 years) living in the Netherlands completed the Post Migration Living Problems checklist (PMLP-C), the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ), Rumination Response Scale (RRS) and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) and Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI).
Our results revealed that more PMLPs, lower levels of social support and higher levels of rumination were associated with increased risk of depression. Multiple linear regression analysis confirmed that PMLP does not directly affect depression levels, and that rumination and self-esteem have both a significant positive impact on depression level, whereas social support has a significant negative impact on level of depression. Mediation analysis showed that when going through the mediator, PMLP’s and rumination increased, self-esteem decreased, and depression levels increased. As social support increased, self-esteem decreased, and depression levels decreased. Finally, high levels of rumination found to decrease self-esteem and increase depression levels.
The results support the notion that navigating through adaptations to the Netherlands as a student come with circumstantial and intrapersonal challenges (PMLP’s, social support and rumination), which increase the risk for depression. The results of this study contribute to discussions surrounding the importance of guidance within the domain of internationalization of higher education. Recommendations to cater to the needs of international students, including interventions that are effective in developing coping skills when facing post migration problems, rumination and low social support were provided. Implications for future research, faculty advisors, international students’ committees and international university students are also discussed.