Thesis defence in the University of Oulu

Doctoral Candidate

Master of Education Heli Kiema-Junes

Faculty and research unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Research center for psychology and educational psychology

Field of study

Educational psychology

Date and time of the thesis defence

2.12.2020 12:00

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, IT 115, Zoom link

Topic of the dissertation

Associations of social skills and social support with well-being related outcomes at work and in higher education. Heart rate variability, engagement, and burnout


Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro, University of Helsinki


Professor Mirka Hintsanen, University of Oulu

Social skills and social support are associated with higher work engagement and lower risk of burnout

The costs of growing work stress and burnout have attracted attention to enhancing mental health at work and in study life. According to this dissertation, developing social skills and promoting social support may be beneficial for work and education organizations. At the moment, especially the changes due to COVID-19 situation cause stress and burnout for many people, which emphasizes the role of social interaction and social support for psychological well-being.

Rapid changes in work life and the growth of work intensification increase mental demands. Work and education organization are still calling for resilient and successful employees in order to attain optimal performance. Expected accomplishment requires investments in psychological well-being.

This research focused on examining social skills and social support that are significant sources of resources for both work and study related well-being. Work engagement refers to positive motivational and emotional state at work and employee experiencing work engagement, is sincerely happy and excited about work and committed to organization.

Work engagement and burnout are also examined among higher education students because student well-being predicts later well-being at work.

Results showed that good social skills were associated with higher heart rate variability, higher study engagement and lower study burnout. High heart rate variability can be demonstrated as a feeling of relaxation. Social support in private life and at work is linked to higher work engagement.

Before giving practical implications, further studies, such as longitudinal and intervention studies, are needed to support these results.

The research data consists of ten client-counselor pairs, 351 university students and approximately 5300 employees. The data of university students was collected in University of Oulu and the data of employees is part of Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study. We used video analysis, large survey data and psychophysiological measurement in our study.


Last updated: 20.11.2020