Engineering stress culture: Relationships among mental health, engineering identity, and sense of inclusion

Karin J. Jensen, Kelly J Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Stress is commonly experienced by college students, especially engineering students. However, the role of stress within engineering culture and its implications for engineering programs have not been fully explored in the literature. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to measure and examine the relationships among self-reported stress, anxiety, and depression; engineering identity; and perceptions of inclusion of undergraduate engineering students. Design/Method: We validated a quantitative survey instrument built on previously published scales and used it to measure self-reported stress, anxiety, and depression; engineering identity; and perceptions of inclusion. Results: Our findings indicate that self-reported levels of stress, anxiety, and depression are high for engineering students. Further, levels of stress and anxiety are significantly higher for female students, while levels of depression are higher for first-generation students. We find correlations between self-reported mental health symptoms, engineering identity, and perceptions of inclusion, and these relationships differ by gender. Lastly, we find that students underrepresented in engineering rate their departments as less diverse than their peers. Conclusions: Our results suggest that perceptions of inclusion and engineering identity are related to student mental health, further emphasizing the importance of developing inclusive cultures in engineering programs. The findings suggest that mental health needs greater attention in engineering education, particularly for female and first-generation students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-392
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Volume110
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • engineering identity
  • gender
  • inclusion
  • mental health
  • undergraduate education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)

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