Can the Academic and Experiential Study of Flourishing Improve Flourishing in College Students? A Multi-university Study

Matthew J. Hirshberg, Blake A. Colaianne, Mark T. Greenberg, Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, Richard J. Davidson, David Germano, John D. Dunne, Robert W. Roeser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Significant concerns have been raised about the “mental health crisis” on college campuses, with attention turning to what colleges can do beyond counseling services to address students’ mental health and well-being. We examined whether primarily first-year (89.1%) undergraduate students (n = 651) who enrolled in the Art and Science of Human Flourishing (ASHF), a novel academic and experiential for-credit elective course on human flourishing, would demonstrate improved mental health and strengthen skills, perspectives, and behaviors associated with flourishing relative to students who did not enroll in this course. Methods: In a two-wave, multi-site, propensity-score matched controlled trial (ASHF n = 217, control n = 434; N = 651), we used hierarchal linear models and false discovery rate corrected doubly robust estimates to evaluate the impact of the ASHF on attention and social-emotional skill development, flourishing perspectives, mental health, health, and risk behavior outcomes. Results: ASHF participants reported significantly improved mental health (i.e., reduced depression) and flourishing, improvements on multiple attention and social-emotional skills (e.g., attention function, self-compassion), and increases in prosocial attitudes (empathic concern, shared humanity; Cohen’s ds = 0.18–0.46) compared to controls. There was no evidence for ASHF course impacts on health or risk behaviors, raising the possibility that these outcomes take more time to change. Conclusions: This research provides initial evidence that the ASHF course may be a promising curricular approach to reduce and potentially prevent poor mental health while promoting flourishing in college students. Continued research is needed to confirm these conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2243-2256
Number of pages14
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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