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Design and Depression
One recommendation for practitioners is to design
student housing facilities with mental health in mind,
as the built environment can play a significant role
in college students' mental health, especially during times
of high need for counseling and clinical resources.
DISCUSSION
Longitudinal research efforts in the field of architecture are rare (Evans, 2003), but
they are important in holding design decisions accountable, because they link design
strategies to metrics that reflect the effectiveness of initial goals. Results from this
study begin to shed light on the relationship between how first-year students perceive
their built environment and their mental health.
The depression level of first-year students who lived in the new neighborhood for
a year is significantly lower than that of first-year peers who lived in the old residential
facilities for a year. With anxiety and depression rates in college students at an all-time
high, and given that students of both cohorts were responding to the survey at the time
of a public health epidemic and intense social unrest, this finding provides evidence to
support the role of the built environment in enhancing college students' mental health.
The design of student housing can serve as a potent means of countering situations
where there is a significant demand for counseling and clinical resources or where
students are hesitant to seek help (Canto et al., 2017). One recommendation for practitioners
is to design student housing facilities with mental health in mind, as the built
environment can play a significant role in college students' mental health, especially
during times of high need for counseling and clinical resources. For instance, increasing
access to natural elements was one of the promising design strategies utilized in
the new living-learning neighborhood.
The effect of cohort on depression found in Research Question 1 does not depend
on gender as hypothesized. The change in living conditions influences the level of
depression in male and female first-year residents in comparable ways. In line with an
established gender gap in mental well-being, we observed a trend for female first-year
students reporting higher levels of depression than did their male counterparts. To
shed light on the potential effect of gender on the experiential aspects of student housing
facilities, future studies should investigate the mechanism through a theory-driven
framework or manipulation. For example, a study that specifically investigates gender
differences in college students' housing preference shows that female participants
have a higher preference for private spaces and were more sensitive to noise. Male
participants, on the other hand, were found to prefer more public socialization spaces,
such as common areas and lounges (Amole, 2012). Adapting to these gender-related
preferences in housing design can be useful in creating a more comfortable living environment
for all students. Further, by taking gender into account in student housing
management, students might feel that their needs are heard and validated, which leads
to an enhanced sense of belonging.
26 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

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

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