The Company You Keep: The Relationship between Friendship Qualities and Mental Health among Undergraduates
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Prior research has shown that stress and mental illnesses increase during college years. Strong social support may contribute to better mental health while weak social support may exacerbate mental illnesses. Because college students tend to be in an environment away from family and childhood friends, I hypothesize that college friendships have an important impact on mental health. This study investigated how friendship qualities contributed to mental conditions among Duke University undergraduates. Data were collected through a mixed methods online survey. Positive Friendship Qualities (PFQ) was composed of measures of stimulating companionship, help, intimacy, reliable alliance, self-validation, and emotional security. Negative Friendship Qualities was composed of measures of conflict resolution ease, conflict resolution frequency, dishonesty, competitiveness, and superficiality. Depression, loneliness, social anxiety, and positive affect were used to measure mental conditions. Participants answered the friendship qualities questions for their closest friend at Duke. As predicted, PFQ significantly predicted depression, loneliness, social anxiety, and positive affect. PFQ was also inversely correlated with depression, loneliness, and social anxiety. All the correlations between friendship qualities and mental conditions were significant and strong among women, freshmen, and underrepresented minorities. Participants who were not part of a friend group reported feeling less intimate with their closest friend compared with those with a friend group. These results suggest that women, freshmen, and underrepresented minorities who have a positive and fulfilling relationship with a close friend may have stronger ability to navigate life stressors. Implications for this study include suggestions for maintaining student retention rates by introducing interventions for students whose mental health are dependent on social support but do not have fulfilling friendships at Duke.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
CitationOke, Oluwadamilola (Damilola) (2019). The Company You Keep: The Relationship between Friendship Qualities and Mental Health among Undergraduates. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/19090.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers