The job demands-resources (JD-R) [1
] framework is currently one of the most applied frameworks in occupational health psychology for examining the relationships between occupational characteristics and occupational health and well-being. For instance, a quick search in Google Scholar (April 2020) revealed about 20,000 hits for “Job Demands-Resources Model”, against only 4200 for Karasek’s well-known “Job Demand-Control Model”. The JD-R framework claims that specific occupational characteristics lead to well-being, which in turn affects health and performance. Its crucial advantage over other occupational frameworks is that it allows for the study of both the salutogenic and pathogenic effects of occupational characteristics on occupational health and well-being. Because of its widespread use, the JD-R framework is well-established and validated even meta-analytically, as well as longitudinally, as an excellent theoretical framework to examine occupational well-being in a broad range of organizations and occupational fields [3
There is also a considerable amount of research on students’ health and well-being. Concepts like student engagement and student burnout, its antecedents, and outcomes gain more and more interest [4
]. Several studies have focused on either the positive consequences of studying [11
] or negative consequences of studying [15
]. However, to date there is no validated theoretical framework that considers study characteristics and their positive and negative effects on students’ health and well-being explicitly and exclusively within the university context.
Since from a psychological perspective, studying may be considered as work [14
], the JD-R framework might be of great interest within the university context. However, to date there is no clear theoretical translation of the JD-R framework into the university context. A search in Medline, PsychArticles, and PsycINFO for “study demands-resources framework” reveals not even one hit. Hence, our aim was to apply the JD-R’s essential assumptions within the university context, and thereby introduce the novel study demands-resources (SD-R) framework. With this SD-R framework we are able to examine both the salutogenic and pathogenic effects of studying on students’ health and well-being, and thus improve their academic performance in the long run [11
1.1. The Job Demands-Resources Framework
The job demands-resources (JD-R) framework is currently the most popular theoretical framework to investigate the relationship between employee well-being and its antecedents and outcomes [20
]. The JD-R framework proposes that poor job design and excessive job demands lead to burnout and health problems in the long run [1
], and job resources lead to higher work engagement and better performance [1
]. Furthermore, job resources are believed to mitigate burnout [1
Job demands—the “bad things” at work [21
]—are associated with sustained physical or mental effort, and therefore with certain physiological and psychological costs, whereas the job resources stated—the “good things” at work [21
]—are functional in achieving work goals, reducing job demands, or stimulating personal development [1
]. Burnout is defined as a consequence of extended exposure to specific job demands like intense physical, affective, and cognitive strain [22
], and includes exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy [23
], whereas work engagement is defined as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” [24
Even though some jobs are very different than others, the JD-R framework can be generalized across all occupational settings [25
]. The JD-R framework has been applied and validated in various occupational and organizational contexts. Several reviews and meta-analyses have examined specific aspects of the JD-R framework [26
]. A recent meta-analytic review has validated its essential assumptions longitudinally [3
], thereby providing evidence for their causality. Hence, we can assume that the JD-R framework serves as a good framework to examine occupational health and well-being in employees across various occupational settings.
According to Schaufeli and Bakker [25
], this generalizability across all jobs is based on a common link between all jobs: All jobs have specific job demands and provide specific job resources. However, the applicability of the framework is not necessarily based on the concrete settings’ occupational background, but rather on the existence of specific demands and specific resources within this setting. Therefore, the framework might also be applicable to non-occupational settings, if they pose specific demands and provide specific resources.
1.2. JD-R’s Application within the University Context: The Study Demands-Resources Framework
Ouweneel et al. [14
] claim that from a psychological perspective, studying may also be considered as work. Similar to employees, students, are faced with various demands. They are expected to attend lectures and seminars, and to invest time in self-studying [30
]. Furthermore, they are demanded to manage high workload, in some disciplines up to 50 hours per week [31
]. Perceived and actual workload is frequently associated with workplace burnout [2
]. Further study-related demands arise from the pressure of behaving like a competent professional [30
Besides study-related demands, students are also faced with social and developmental demands: Studying is often associated with moving out of the parents’ home, partly to a different location. Only 20% of students still share their living space with their parents [32
]. Therefore, many students are not only required to meet the academic standards of studying, but also to adapt to a new environment, sometimes far from their hometown, family, and friends. Additionally, students are faced with financial demands: 69% of students are involved in working activities during the semester, and 59% of these students are absolutely required to do so to fund their subsistence. A total of 33% of students do not have enough financial resources to cover their monthly expenses, and 41% of students expect an increase of their study duration due to working activities [32
]. However, studying does not exclusively pose demands. It also provides specific resources. While introducing the JD-R framework, Bakker et al. [1
] introduced various job resources in occupational settings. Several of these are also applicable in the university context. Appreciation, autonomy, supervisor support—or, more accurately, teacher support—may be considered as study resources, which are in line with the above-mentioned definition of resources as good aspects of the specific setting [21
]. Hence, various other constructs like social support and developmental opportunities may also be considered as study resources.
The potential to transfer the JD-R framework into the university context is based not only on the existence of specific demands and resources, but also on other striking similarities of those contexts. As Gusy et al. [33
] pointed out, studying and working share multiple other key characteristics. Like working, studying full-time requires a massive time investment [31
]. Like employees, students are involved in structured, organized, and coercive activities like learning for tests or attending classes [30
]. Students are also expected to apply certain competences in order to finish externally created sets of tasks in a given period of time [34
]. Similar to occupational settings, these activities are goal-oriented and evaluated [30
], and their externally assessed quality may have impact on one’s future career. However, in contrast to working, studying serves to finance the livelihood only in the long term. In addition, students’ teachers are, in contrast to employees’ leaders, not authorized to give instructions.
Moreover, there is empirical evidence for the applicability of some assumptions of the JD-R framework to students. Mokgele and Rothmann [36
] found initial evidence for JD-R’s health impairment and motivational process in a sample of first-year students. Their results indicate that high study demands and a lack of study resources are positively associated with burnout. Additionally, the authors found a positive association between available study resources and engagement. Robins et al. [37
] got similar results. Various personal and study-related resources (i.e. supervisor support, peer support, mindfulness, and optimism) were associated with student engagement, whereas study demands (i.e. workload and professional self-doubt) were associated with exhaustion [37
]. Furthermore, general health was negatively associated with study demands and positively associated with study engagement [37
]. These results underline the transferability of the two processes into student populations. However, there has not been a holistic approach yet to transfer the JD-R-framework into university context, and to validate this novel SD-R framework in a large sample of university students.
Due to these initial results and the similarity between working and studying, we assume that the concepts and essential assumptions proposed by the JD-R framework may be applicable within the university context. In line with Demerouti et al. [2
], study demands—the “bad things” at university—can be defined as those physical, social, or organizational aspects of studying that require sustained physical or mental effort, and are therefore associated with certain physiological and psychological costs. Study resources—the “good things” at university—can be defined as positively valued physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of studying that are functional in achieving study-related goals, reducing study demands, or stimulating personal growth and development. Schaufeli et al. [23
] define student engagement—similar to work engagement—as “a positive, fulfilling state of mind, that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption.” Student burnout “refers to feeling exhausted because of study demands, having a cynical and detached attitude toward one’s study, and feeling incompetent as a student” [23
Within this SD-R framework, we also imply two causal, essentially independent processes: the health impairment process and the motivational process. High study demands increase the risk for student burnout and lead to negative outcomes, such as health complaints, whereas high study resources play especially a motivational role, stimulate student engagement, mitigate student burnout, and foster positive outcomes, such as academic performance or commitment (see Figure 1
As we have mentioned, working and studying share common ground in several aspects. However, working and studying also differ in several other aspects—for example, studying is less important for earning students’ living, or lecturers (compared to supervisors) are not authorized to give formal instructions. Thus, the major advantage of this novel SD-R framework is that it is much more specific and focused solely on the university context. Furthermore, it provides specific definitions of study demands and resources as well as student burnout and engagement.