Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Elizabeth Gross Cohn

Committee Members

Elizabeth Capezuti

William Ellery Samuels

Jacob Shane

Subject Categories

Community Health | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing | Public Health and Community Nursing


college students, flourishing, psychological well-being, intersectionality, belonging, campus belonging


Annual data since 2012 shows college students’ flourishing (a measure of psychological well-being) in continuous decline, with 2022 showing the largest decrease. Since the knowledge base of the predictors of flourishing is limited, how college executives can best address this issue is unclear. Variations in flourishing have been observed in studies that examined the relationship between food insecurity (DeBate et al., 2021), race/ethnicity (Lipson et al., 2018, 2022; Nyunt et al., 2022; Parr, 2022), immigration status (Cadenas & Nienhusser, 2021), as well as gender identity and sexual orientation (Parr, 2022). The intersectional impact of demographic and social identities has not been determined. This secondary analysis of undergraduate participants aged 18-25 of the fall 2021 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) III was a first step in clarifying the relationship between intersectional identities and flourishing. The analysis examined the relationship between college students’ (n = 20,914) flourishing, social identities, and campus belonging. Multivariate linear regression models examined the independent variables’ (age, food insecurity, first-generation college student status, military experience/veteran status, race/ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, and sexual orientation) relationships to flourishing. The second model used an intersectional lens to analyze the independent variables with two-way additive interactions (of race/ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, and sexual orientation). The final model accounted for 23.6% of the variance and included campus belonging, which was the strongest predictor (𝛽 = .41, p < .001) of higher flourishing in this study. Other significant predictors of higher flourishing in the final model were identifying as heterosexual (𝛽 = .13), White, non-Hispanic (𝛽 = .06), being both White, non-Hispanic heterosexual (𝛽 = .06), and higher age (𝛽 = .05). Significant predictors of lower flourishing in the final model were experiencing food insecurity (𝛽 = -.10), identifying as cisgender male heterosexual (𝛽 = -.08), and being a first-generation college student (𝛽 = -.05). College executives and administrators can apply these results by promoting communities that enhance feelings of belonging and support student flourishing. Additional supports are most urgently needed for sexual minority students and students experiencing food insecurity. The results of this study may inform future studies on analyzing multiple social identities intersectionally.

Keywords: college students, flourishing, psychological well-being, intersectionality, belonging, campus belonging, campus climate, ACHA-NCHA III