Open Access Open Badges Research article

Social, behavioral, and sleep characteristics associated with depression symptoms among undergraduate students at a women’s college: a cross-sectional depression survey, 2012

Katherine T Wilson1, Ashley E Bohnert1, Alex Ambrose1, Destiny Y Davis1, Dina M Jones12 and Matthew J Magee13*

Author Affiliations

1 Agnes Scott College Department of Public Health, 141 East College Avenue, Decatur, USA

2 University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, 420 Delaware Street Southeast, Minneapolis, USA

3 Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, 1518 Clifton Road Northeast, Atlanta, USA

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BMC Women's Health 2014, 14:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-8

Published: 13 January 2014



The association between student characteristics and depression among students attending women’s colleges (single-sex institutions of higher education that exclude or limit males from admission) is poorly understood. Our objective was to estimate the prevalence of depression and determine behavioral and social characteristics associated with depression among students attending a women’s college.


We administered a cross-sectional Internet-based survey between April and May 2012 to students (n = 277) enrolled at a private women’s college in the southeastern US. Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21) instruments measured self-reported depression. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression methods were used to estimate adjusted associations.


Prevalence of depression measured by CES-D and DASS-21 instruments was 26.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] 20.8-32.3%) and 26.0% (95% CI 20.4-32.3%), respectively. After adjusting for confounders, absence of strong social support (prevalence odds ratio [OR] = 4.3, 95% CI 1.4-13.7), history of mental health disorder (OR = 4.8 95% CI 1.9-12.4), and poor sleep hygiene (OR = 2.8, 95% CI 1.3-5.8) were associated with depression.


This cross-sectional survey identified absence of strong social support, history of mental health disorder, and poor sleep hygiene as potential predictors of depression among students attending a women’s college. Further investigation of these factors may inform depression interventions for students attending women’s colleges and other undergraduate student populations.

Mental health; Depression; Sleep; Women’s college