The Role of the Built Environment in Social Interactions and Loneliness

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Loneliness has been rising among all age groups, especially young adults. This study dissected the everyday interactions of Cornell University students during the Covid-19 pandemic to examine links between loneliness, social interactions, and the physical environment in a 3-phase study consisting of two surveys and a week of Ecological Momentary Assessments. Questions asked about feelings of loneliness, how meaningful the most recent interaction was, and physical environment components of their interactions. Engaging in primarily virtual versus in-person interactions was linked to increased loneliness. Recreational and outdoor spaces were linked to the more meaningful interactions, with the worst results connected to study spaces. Loneliness and meaningfulness were not significantly different after interactions in private versus public space, although many interactions between variables were found. Visual preference analyses suggest the need to a provide a mixture of open and closed spaces, including affordances for privacy based on the nature of the interaction.

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204 pages


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Built Environment; Design; Loneliness; Young Adults


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Union Local


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Loebach, Janet Elizabeth

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Ong, Anthony D.

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Design and Environmental Analysis

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M.S., Design and Environmental Analysis

Degree Level

Master of Science

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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