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College Students' Experiences with Mental Health: Sorority Members, Anxiety, and Depression

Kerry Lynn Burns, Johnson & Wales University


College student mental health is a significant issue for educational leaders, as mental health needs are increasing in prevalence and severity (ACHA, 2013; Gallagher, 2013). Eisenberg, Downs, Golberstein, and Zivin (2009) note that mental health issues cause adverse occupational, academic and social outcomes, impacting student success, retention, and persistence (Belch, 2011; Cleary, Walter, & Jackson, 2011). Anxiety and depression, which are more prevalent in women (ADAA, 2007; APA, 2013), are the most common mental health issues affecting college students (ACHA, 2013; Gallagher, 2013). Coyne and Downey (1991) correlated social support with improved mental health outcomes. Baron (2010) indicated that involvement in student organizations may promote development and connection, thereby enhancing learning and retention (Chambliss & Takacs, 2014). Female students may engage in campus life by joining sororities, which are prominent and influential on many campuses (Lien, 2002). The purpose of this research was to investigate sorority member mental health, specifically anxiety and depression. The relationships between anxiety, depression, and student characteristics were examined. This correlational, ex-post facto study explored the presence and severity of anxiety and depression of women (N =72) who self-identified as living in sorority housing. Permission was obtained to review data from the 2013-2014 Healthy Minds Study (Eisenberg & Lipson, 2014), including demographic information and results from the PHQ-9 (Kroenke, Spitzer, & Williams, 2001) and the GAD-7 (Spitzer, Kroenke, Williams, & Löwe 2006). Data analyses produced frequencies, correlations, and t-tests. Findings revealed the following: 20% of respondents reported anxiety, with 8% percent reporting severe anxiety; 15% of respondents reported depression, with 5% reporting major depression. Financial difficulty was correlated with depression (r =.27, r2=.07, p=.008) and a significant relationship existed between the presence of anxiety and depression (r2=.36, r2=.13, p=.004). No statistically significant difference existed in reported symptoms of anxiety and depression of women residing in sorority housing compared to those residing elsewhere. Information about mental health may assist sororities in providing support and resources to members. Educational leaders, mental health practitioners, faculty, and student affairs staff can also benefit from this information as they work to help address student mental health needs, student retention, persistence, and success.

Subject Area

Mental health|Higher Education Administration|Educational leadership|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Burns, Kerry Lynn, "College Students' Experiences with Mental Health: Sorority Members, Anxiety, and Depression" (2015). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3700708.