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Design and Depression
IMPACTS ON THE MENTAL WELL-BEING OF COLLEGE STUDENTS
The first year of college is a transitional stage of development when newfound freedom
and independence often kindle new stressors (Canto et al., 2017). Students entering
college study and live in an environment that they are unfamiliar with, interacting
with diverse groups through various activities while exploring all aspects of academia
and social connection that encompass student life. The rapid change in environments
requires rapid adjustment and perseverance, which often impact well-being, highlighting
the importance of putting supports in place to offset the negative impact of this
transition.
Very few longitudinal studies to date capture the mental well-being of American
college students from the onset of the pandemic through transitions back to normalcy.
Therefore, there is a general lack of knowledge about the impacts of reactionary safety
protocols such as physical distancing and remote learning. Savage and colleagues
(2021) investigated the mental well-being and physical activity of 255 college students
in the United Kingdom from before the onset of the pandemic through October 2020,
just nine months after the first COVID-19 case was reported in the UK. Research revealed
that the participants' mental well-being and their level of daily physical activity
decreased significantly, indicating the detrimental effects of the pandemic. Further,
studies comparing shifts in well-being metrics between younger and older adults due
to the pandemic indicate a more profound decrease and lagged recovery (Vistisen et al.,
2021) among young adults, demonstrating the increased toll the pandemic has had on
the mental health of college students.
Gender Differences
Evidence from longitudinal self-report studies indicates that female first-year college
students are more likely to experience moderate to severe depression (Fruehwirth et
al., 2021) and higher levels of stress (Garett et al., 2017; Graves et al., 2021) than do
their male counterparts. Further, female college students demonstrated significantly
lower overall adjustment levels (Enochs & Roland, 2006) and used different mechanisms
to cope with stress (Graves et al., 2021). Understanding the mechanisms that
might underlie gender differences in first-year students' well-being can inform more
targeted interventions. Studies suggest that the developmental processes for male and
female students' adjustment to college may differ, partially due to the tendency for many
female students to rely heavily on socialization experiences and interpersonal relationships
(Kenny & Rice, 1995). Further, female students are thought to be more social and
value social connection more than male students do, making distance from established
relationships or difficulties in making new friendships a barrier for female first-years'
adjustment to college (Gilligan, 1987). Therefore, considering the potential for gender
differences is an important step in both designing and evaluating the built environment,
as well as assessing satisfaction with the built environment and student well-being.
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Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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