This study is the first, to our knowledge, to evaluate the relationship between mental health and social support in a large, random sample of college students. A Web-based survey was administered at a large, public university, with 1,378 students completing the measures in this analysis (response rate = 57%). The results support our hypothesis that students with characteristics differing from most other students, such as minority race or ethnicity, international status, and low socioeconomic status, are at greater risk of social isolation. In addition, the authors found that students with lower quality social support, as measured by the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, were more likely to experience mental health problems, including a sixfold risk of depressive symptoms relative to students with high quality social support. These results may help administrators and health providers to identify more effectively the population of students at high risk for mental illness and develop effective interventions to address this significant and growing public health issue.
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