The transition to college is difficult for many students, and there is a need for improved understanding of experiences that may identify those at risk for negative mental and physical health outcomes. College women are particularly responsive to the social environment, though little is known about processes other than social support. This study investigated the social comparison orientation (SCO) as an independent predictor of change in perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and health-related quality of life during the first semester of college. First-semester college women (n = 157; 64% Caucasian, MBMI = 22.49 kg/m2) completed validated self-report measures of the aforementioned social and health experiences at the beginning and end of their first semester (nine weeks later). Controlling for baseline social support (which was not related to change over time), stronger (vs. weaker) SCO predicted increased depressive symptoms and decreased health-related quality of life (ps < 0.06, ηp2 = 0.05-0.07). Moreover, controlling for reported depressive symptoms at baseline, a one-unit increase in baseline upward SCO was associated with a 19% increase in risk for meaningful depressive symptoms at the end of the semester. Findings highlight SCO as a unique predictor of declining mental and physical health reports among first-semester college women.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology