Biopsychosocial Factors Associated with Depression Among U.S. Undergraduate International Students




biopsychosocial model, depression, international students, United States


Using a biopsychosocial framework, our study examines the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors associated with depression among a crosssectional sample of undergraduate international students (N = 712) attending 28 U.S. colleges and universities. Consistent with hypotheses, regression analysis reveals that self-esteem, life satisfaction, and coping self-efficacy are negatively associated with depressive symptoms, and that ethnic minority status, perceived discrimination, and financial concerns are positively associated with depressive symptoms. Contrary to predictions, age, optimism, friendships, and school belonging are not significant predictors, and perseverance predicted increases depression in this sample. The novel findings highlight adaptation issues among international undergraduate students and suggest preventive measures and interventions against depression for university administrators and counselors.

Author Biographies

Fanyi Zeng, Wake Forest University, USA

Fanyi Zeng is a Masters' student in the Psychology Department at Wake Forest University. Her current research focuses on close relationships, attachment styles, and emotional support. Email:

Nelson C. Brunsting, Wake Forest University, USA

Nelson C. Brunsting, PhD, is a research associate professor of International Studies and Director for the Center for Research on Abroad and International Student Engagement (RAISE Center) at Wake Forest University. His research focuses on understanding and enhancing the development and well-being of diverse populations in educational contexts. Email:

Nicole Brocato, Wake Forest University, USA

Nicole Brocato, PhD, is the Director of the Wellbeing Assessment at Wake Forest University. Her research focuses on creating inclusive and equitable models of wellbeing, identifying environmental barriers and supports for student wellbeing, and understanding patterns of association between wellbeing dimensions. Email:

Lisa Kiang, Wake Forest University, USA

Lisa Kiang, PhD, is a professor in the Psychology Department at Wake Forest University. Her research is in self and identity, family and social relationships, and culture. Email:

Eranda Jayawickreme, Wake Forest University, USA

Eranda Jayawickreme, PhD, is the Harold W. Tribble professor of psychology and a senior research fellow at the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University. His research focuses on personality dynamics, post-traumatic growth, well-being, and character. Email:

Sonali Kathuria, Wake Forest University, USA

Sonali Kathuria is a Master’s student in International Higher Education and Graduate Assistant for the Career Center and Schiller Institute at Boston College. Her major research interests lie in the area of global assessments. Email:


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How to Cite

Zeng, F., Brunsting, N., Brocato, N., Kiang, L., Jayawickreme, E., & Kathuria, S. (2021). Biopsychosocial Factors Associated with Depression Among U.S. Undergraduate International Students. Journal of International Students, 12(1), 101–122.



Research Articles (English)