Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 16

Design and Depression
THE WELL-BEING OF COLLEGE STUDENTS can be impacted by aspects of the
physical environment, especially during key life transitions such as beginning
college during a pandemic. This repeated cross-sectional study investigates
the influence of a newly constructed living-learning neighborhood on first-year
residents' mental well-being, specifically self-reported depression. The purpose
of this study was to investigate (1) if residential first-year students' ratings of
depression reflected differences between two built environments: old residential
facilities and newer facilities that were part of a neighborhood, (2) if gender has
an effect on these perceptions, and (3) if increased environmental satisfaction
with different spaces in the new neighborhood drives lower depression scores.
Students in two cohorts (ncohort 1 = 120; ncohort 2 = 112) were surveyed during
the pandemic in the summers of 2020 and 2021. To improve the accuracy of
predicting depression, participants' subjective satisfaction with their lives was
controlled when investigating the influence of a change in the environment.
First-year students who lived in the new neighborhood reported significantly
lower depression scores than did their counterparts who lived in the old
residential facilities. Results also reveal that this reduction in depression holds
regardless of gender. Finally, as college residents' overall environmental
satisfaction increases, their feelings of depression decrease, after controlling
for their life satisfaction. Further, satisfaction within the personal residential
(micro) environment has the strongest correlation with mental well-being. The
findings from this study allude to the residential environment being the functional
area that is most predictive of college residents' mental well-being. Implications
for designers and administrators are discussed.
Note: We would like to thank Dr. Casey Lindberg for his valuable contributions and support
during the early stages of this study, particularly in preparing for the Institutional Review Board
(IRB) process.
C
ollege students' mental health and well-being have been on the decline since the
beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (Fruehwirth et al., 2021). Amidst family
matters, socializing activities, health concerns, and disruptions to daily routines,
reports of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed. In fact, in one study moderate to
severe self-reported depression was observed in 31.7% of first-year students four months
into the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared to 21.5% one year prior (Fruehwirth et al.,
2021), and in another study 66% of college students surveyed reported that the pandemic
had resulted in more financial stress (Martinez & Nguyen, 2020). Research has
Volume 50, No. 2 * 2024 13

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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