Loughborough University
Doctoral Thesis - Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi PhD.pdf (8.25 MB)

Entrepreneurial health and wellbeing in the digital economy: an intersectional critical realist investigation

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posted on 2020-07-21, 10:01 authored by Adaku Agwunobi
This doctoral thesis examines the health and well-being of marginalised entrepreneurs, such as Black women, in the digital economy, using an explanatory sequential transformative mixed-methods approach and intersectionality as a theoretical lens. Hence, the study aims to determine the role that intersectionality plays in the health and well-being of entrepreneurs. The study is underpinned with critical realist philosophy particularly the focus on ontology. Building on existing work on perceived discrimination and health, this research examines a magnitude of constructs specific to marginalised individuals. The existing literature shows both positive and negative aspects of entrepreneurship, yet not much investigation has been done through qualitative inquiries. Based on a review of the literature on entrepreneurship, well-being and inequality, an online survey was distributed to entrepreneurs (N=126); this was followed by semi-structured interviews (N=20), encompassing a qualitative priority and resulting in the identification of five key broad themes: physical health, mental health, digital well-being, perception and the side hustle. Subsequently, these consisted of sub-themes including micro-aggressions, whitewashing, cyberbullying, stereotyping and stigma within the sample set. Thus, this thesis explores not only the mental health aspects of entrepreneurship but also the physical and physiological effects of stress, framed by using a biopsychosocial model for the marginalised entrepreneurs in the sample. Analysis of the responses demonstrates that overworking, perfectionism, social media dependency and comparison are associated with lower well-being. Additionally, anxiety, burnout, hypertension and sleep disturbances were identified as adverse health outcomes of entrepreneurship, accentuated by the digital economy and low self-esteem. Furthermore, the analysis shows that there is a strong correlation between entrepreneurship and stress, and investigation of the qualitative data helps to explain these findings. The overall results indicate that entrepreneurship has a negative effect on the mental and physical health of intersectional entrepreneurs due to perceived discrimination. On this basis, it is recommended that future research continue to include diverse sample sets in order to contribute to positive change and support for these groups consistent with transformative frameworks. Lastly, the findings in this thesis will help in shaping policy; recommendations are offered for strategies that entrepreneurs can adopt to improve their well-being. The thesis has contributed to the literature in the field of entrepreneurship and well-being, with considerations of intersectionality, namely race, gender, age and class, taken into account.



  • Loughborough University London


Loughborough University

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© Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi

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A doctoral thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Angela Martinez Dy ; Wilfred Dolfsma

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  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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