Document Type



The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and revealed the extent of our national mental health crisis, especially among undergraduate students and young adults. According to the National College Health Assessment survey in 2021 almost 75% of undergraduates nationwide reported moderate or severe psychological distress. Many young adults are experiencing insufficient sleep, social media use and/or abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual or emotional abuse, low social support, trauma, etc. Sociologically, this is a crisis not only of individual suffering but of frail, fractured, and stressed relationships. This fact calls us to carry out a closer sociological investigation of young adults to understand factors lying behind these issues. Supportive and joyous relationships are crucial for wellbeing, but feelings of despair may themselves create barriers to building and maintaining those relationships. We aim to develop a humanistic understanding of the social and emotional lives of our participants. We hope to understand how young adults are working on developing new lifelong friendships and relationships, building community, and having fun in order to recognize what is going wrong when they struggle. Fully understanding these dynamics requires studying how feelings of sadness and isolation are met with efforts to spark authentic joy, fun, and connection. How do young adults foster joy as the building blocks of supportive relationships, and how/when do mental health challenges keep those experiences beyond their reach? Our study consists of a 2-part interview process beginning with a survey and concluding with an in-person interview where respondents will be asked to share experiences of joy and various emotional challenges that may push authentic connection just out of reach. Investigations of everyday life, tensions between peers, and expectations fulfilled or denied will lead us to understand the social and emotional lives of young adults on a micro level. These findings can then inform a more macro-sociological understanding of our contemporary mental health crisis. We aim to develop implications for student affairs, counseling centers, university administrators, and for students themselves.


Publication Date



sociology; mental health; young adults; COVID-19; undergraduate research




This poster was presented at the 2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase hosted by Gonzaga University's Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry.

Upload File


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Included in

Sociology Commons