Gender and the social cure in undergraduate physics students: physics identity, self-efficacy, belonging, and wellbeing

Ewan Bottomley*, Vivienne Wild, Paula Jean Miles, Ken Mavor, Antje Kohnle

*Corresponding author for this work

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The social cure is the concept that strong connections and social bonds are good for wellbeing and physical health. Having strong social support makes hardship easier to cope with. We hypothesize that we could apply the relationship to educational contexts, with a sense of belonging as part of the cohort or community helping students to cope with educational hurdles, resulting in greater wellbeing. We examined the case of women in physics. Previous research has suggested that women in physics classes report a lesser sense of belonging than men. We aimed to replicate this finding and examine how a sense of belonging relates to wellbeing. We surveyed 310 physics students (205 men, 105 women) from a small research-intensive university in the UK. The survey measured students’ physics identity, sense of belonging to the physics community, self-efficacy (belief in ability to complete physics-based tasks), and general wellbeing. We found that women and men reported similar levels of belonging and wellbeing, although women reported less physics identity and self- efficacy. Self-efficacy explained a significant fraction of the variance in wellbeing for both men and women. Additionally, belonging explained variance in wellbeing over and above self-efficacy and physics identity for men, but not for women. These results indicate that for men there is a stronger association between belonging and wellbeing, compared to women, but that it does not result in women having an over- all lower sense of wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Science and Mathematics Education
Early online date8 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2023


  • Belonging
  • Gender
  • Physics identity
  • Social cure
  • Wellbeing


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