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Design and Depression
established that the design of the built environment influences health and well-being
(Beemer et al., 2021; Devlin, 2018; Renalds et al., 2010). Within the context of college
and university campuses, residence halls have the potential to shape student outcomes
more so than any other environment, influencing student life outcomes such as retention,
persistence, graduation rates, openness to diversity, inclusive racial/ethnic attitudes,
and satisfaction with the college experience (Mayhew et al., 2016). Previous
studies have primarily investigated how the design of residence halls influences constructs
associated with socializing and community (Clemons et al., 2005; Valins &
Baum, 1973), but less is known about how aspects of the residential environment may
influence the mental well-being of full-time, first-year students. The purpose of this
study is to investigate the elusive relationship between the residential environment and
students' mental well-being.
Prior to the pandemic, there was already a strong economic case for investing in
facilities and programs to support student mental health and well-being, and modern
or updated facilities are commonly utilized as a recruitment tool (La Roche et al.,
2010). Student retention and persistence are also affected by potential stressors in the
college residential environment, including commuting, improper nutrition, and financial
constraints (Astin, 1977). Consequently, students who have significant personal
and structural barriers that prevent them from fully engaging in their academic and
campus life tend to drop out more frequently (Eisenberg et al., 2009).
Residence hall design has evolved as housing officials attempt to further impact
student outcomes. Take the university that is the context for this study as an example:
In addition to responding to the escalating need for affordable housing, it invested in
a living-learning neighborhood with the overarching intent to positively influence student
health and well-being, enhance social connection, and prioritize the resiliency of
the surrounding ecological environment. The landmark 10-acre, 1.6-million-square-foot
neighborhood brings to life the university's vision for a vibrant community that blends
residential, academic, commercial, and cultural programming into a campus within a
campus. This neighborhood addresses the university's growth and need for affordable
on-campus living, as well as creating a welcoming environment that advances student
success by addressing physical, social, and mental health through design. The purpose
of this cross-sectional study was to investigate if the new neighborhood influenced the
mental well-being of first-year student residents and if satisfaction with various environments
within the neighborhood was associated with student well-being scores.
. . . residence halls have the potential to shape student outcomes
more so than any other environment, influencing student life
outcomes such as retention, persistence, graduation rates,
openness to diversity, inclusive racial/ethnic attitudes, and
satisfaction with the college experience.
14 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

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

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