Fraternity members report higher levels of positive mental health and support

As college students deal with more anxiety, depression and feelings of social isolation, a new report from the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found fraternity affiliated students report higher levels of positive mental health along with lower rates of depression and anxiety.

“One of the impacts of public health restrictions meant to keep people safe is that many students feel distanced and alone this year,” said Judson Horras, president and CEO of the North American Interfraternity Conference. “Fraternities are helping students cope, and they have always played an integral role in helping new students successfully transition to college life.”

The ability of students to succeed in higher education and beyond is dependent on their physical and mental well-being, and the nation’s higher education institutions are seeing increasing levels of mental illness, substance use, and other forms of emotional distress among their students according to a study published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Members of Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity volunteering for their local Feeding America center.

Fraternity and sorority members believe that good support systems exist on campus and are more likely to seek therapy or counseling at some point in their lives, according to the PERC report. Members have a lower chance of being diagnosed with depression throughout their lives. This is important at a time when a survey of more than 300,000 students finds 60 percent of college undergraduates are having an increasingly difficult time accessing mental health care, even before campuses closed and instruction moved online due to the pandemic.

The PERC report continues to reinforce the benefits of fraternity membership. In fall 2020, a study by Dr. Gary R. Pike of Indiana University supported his previous findings that fraternity and sorority membership is associated with significantly higher levels of engagement on a number of measures including high impact practices, collaborative learning, student-faculty interactions, perception of a supportive campus environment and discussions with diverse others—including people from different races, ethnicity, economic backgrounds, religious beliefs and political views.

“There have been several studies, including mine, that find positive relationships between fraternity/sorority membership and student engagement and student learning. While specific findings on a scale differ from study to study, the overall results are consistent about fraternities and sororities having this positive effect on students’ engagement in college,” said Dr. Pike.

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February 22, 2021

Full report: Mental Health Study Grant Report from the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, by Assalone, Grace and Biddix | DOWNLOAD