There has been a growing interest in the negative influence that the environment of higher education institutions has on the mental health of academics. The current climate of global education-competition places extreme expectations on academics. A number of factors influence academics' mental health, such as teaching, supervising, generating research income, among others, and there is evidence to suggest that the university environment is jeopardising academics' physical and psychological health. This study sought to review the international literature with a view to ascertaining what the most commonly used measures are to investigate this topic, including the main stressors and coping strategies reported/used by academics and their lived experiences. A thorough review of the literature was conducted, and 28 studies were identified and critically analysed. The review concludes that there is compelling evidence that the university environment is triggering high levels of stress and burnout and low levels of well-being for academics. There is extremely limited research on the perceptions and lived experiences of academic staff. It is virtually unknown, what coping strategies academics use to face job demands, and our knowledge about burnout seems to be limited by the use of one particular measure without cultural adaptations. Practical implications and directions for future research are proposed. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.