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Original research article, academic stress and mental well-being in college students: correlations, affected groups, and covid-19.
- 1 Department of Neurology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, United States
- 2 Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, United States
- 3 Office for Diversity and Community Engagement, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, United States
- 4 Department of Biology, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, United States
Academic stress may be the single most dominant stress factor that affects the mental well-being of college students. Some groups of students may experience more stress than others, and the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic could further complicate the stress response. We surveyed 843 college students and evaluated whether academic stress levels affected their mental health, and if so, whether there were specific vulnerable groups by gender, race/ethnicity, year of study, and reaction to the pandemic. Using a combination of scores from the Perception of Academic Stress Scale (PAS) and the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (SWEMWBS), we found a significant correlation between worse academic stress and poor mental well-being in all the students, who also reported an exacerbation of stress in response to the pandemic. In addition, SWEMWBS scores revealed the lowest mental health and highest academic stress in non-binary individuals, and the opposite trend was observed for both the measures in men. Furthermore, women and non-binary students reported higher academic stress than men, as indicated by PAS scores. The same pattern held as a reaction to COVID-19-related stress. PAS scores and responses to the pandemic varied by the year of study, but no obvious patterns emerged. These results indicate that academic stress in college is significantly correlated to psychological well-being in the students who responded to this survey. In addition, some groups of college students are more affected by stress than others, and additional resources and support should be provided to them.
Late adolescence and emerging adulthood are transitional periods marked by major physiological and psychological changes, including elevated stress ( Hogan and Astone, 1986 ; Arnett, 2000 ; Shanahan, 2000 ; Spear, 2000 ; Scales et al., 2015 ; Romeo et al., 2016 ; Barbayannis et al., 2017 ; Chiang et al., 2019 ; Lally and Valentine-French, 2019 ; Matud et al., 2020 ). This pattern is particularly true for college students. According to a 2015 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment survey, three in four college students self-reported feeling stressed, while one in five college students reported stress-related suicidal ideation ( Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; American Psychological Association, 2020 ). Studies show that a stressor experienced in college may serve as a predictor of mental health diagnoses ( Pedrelli et al., 2015 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Karyotaki et al., 2020 ). Indeed, many mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder, begin during this period ( Blanco et al., 2008 ; Pedrelli et al., 2015 ; Saleh et al., 2017 ; Reddy et al., 2018 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ).
Stress experienced by college students is multi-factorial and can be attributed to a variety of contributing factors ( Reddy et al., 2018 ; Karyotaki et al., 2020 ). A growing body of evidence suggests that academic-related stress plays a significant role in college ( Misra and McKean, 2000 ; Dusselier et al., 2005 ; Elias et al., 2011 ; Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ; Hj Ramli et al., 2018 ; Reddy et al., 2018 ; Pascoe et al., 2020 ). For instance, as many as 87% of college students surveyed across the United States cited education as their primary source of stress ( American Psychological Association, 2020 ). College students are exposed to novel academic stressors, such as an extensive academic course load, substantial studying, time management, classroom competition, financial concerns, familial pressures, and adapting to a new environment ( Misra and Castillo, 2004 ; Byrd and McKinney, 2012 ; Ekpenyong et al., 2013 ; Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ; Ketchen Lipson et al., 2015 ; Pedrelli et al., 2015 ; Reddy et al., 2018 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Freire et al., 2020 ; Karyotaki et al., 2020 ). Academic stress can reduce motivation, hinder academic achievement, and lead to increased college dropout rates ( Pascoe et al., 2020 ).
Academic stress has also been shown to negatively impact mental health in students ( Li and Lin, 2003 ; Eisenberg et al., 2009 ; Green et al., 2021 ). Mental, or psychological, well-being is one of the components of positive mental health, and it includes happiness, life satisfaction, stress management, and psychological functioning ( Ryan and Deci, 2001 ; Tennant et al., 2007 ; Galderisi et al., 2015 ; Trout and Alsandor, 2020 ; Defeyter et al., 2021 ; Green et al., 2021 ). Positive mental health is an understudied but important area that helps paint a more comprehensive picture of overall mental health ( Tennant et al., 2007 ; Margraf et al., 2020 ). Moreover, positive mental health has been shown to be predictive of both negative and positive mental health indicators over time ( Margraf et al., 2020 ). Further exploring the relationship between academic stress and mental well-being is important because poor mental well-being has been shown to affect academic performance in college ( Tennant et al., 2007 ; Eisenberg et al., 2009 ; Freire et al., 2016 ).
Perception of academic stress varies among different groups of college students ( Lee et al., 2021 ). For instance, female college students report experiencing increased stress than their male counterparts ( Misra et al., 2000 ; Eisenberg et al., 2007 ; Evans et al., 2018 ; Lee et al., 2021 ). Male and female students also respond differently to stressors ( Misra et al., 2000 ; Verma et al., 2011 ). Moreover, compared to their cisgender peers, non-binary students report increased stressors and mental health issues ( Budge et al., 2020 ). The academic year of study of the college students has also been shown to impact academic stress levels ( Misra and McKean, 2000 ; Elias et al., 2011 ; Wyatt et al., 2017 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Defeyter et al., 2021 ). While several studies indicate that racial/ethnic minority groups of students, including Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American students, are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and suicidality than their white peers ( Lesure-Lester and King, 2004 ; Lipson et al., 2018 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Kodish et al., 2022 ), these studies are limited and often report mixed or inconclusive findings ( Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Kodish et al., 2022 ). Therefore, more studies should be conducted to address this gap in research to help identify subgroups that may be disproportionately impacted by academic stress and lower well-being.
The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic is a major stressor that has led to a mental health crisis ( American Psychological Association, 2020 ; Dong and Bouey, 2020 ). For college students, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes and disruptions to daily life, elevated stress levels, and mental and physical health deterioration ( American Psychological Association, 2020 ; Husky et al., 2020 ; Patsali et al., 2020 ; Son et al., 2020 ; Clabaugh et al., 2021 ; Lee et al., 2021 ; Lopes and Nihei, 2021 ; Yang et al., 2021 ). While any college student is vulnerable to these stressors, these concerns are amplified for members of minority groups ( Salerno et al., 2020 ; Clabaugh et al., 2021 ; McQuaid et al., 2021 ; Prowse et al., 2021 ; Kodish et al., 2022 ). Identifying students at greatest risk provides opportunities to offer support, resources, and mental health services to specific subgroups.
The overall aim of this study was to assess academic stress and mental well-being in a sample of college students. Within this umbrella, we had several goals. First, to determine whether a relationship exists between the two constructs of perceived academic stress, measured by the Perception of Academic Stress Scale (PAS), and mental well-being, measured by the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (SWEMWBS), in college students. Second, to identify groups that could experience differential levels of academic stress and mental health. Third, to explore how the perception of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected stress levels. We hypothesized that students who experienced more academic stress would have worse psychological well-being and that certain groups of students would be more impacted by academic- and COVID-19-related stress.
Materials and Methods
A survey was developed that included all questions from the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being ( Tennant et al., 2007 ; Stewart-Brown and Janmohamed, 2008 ) and from the Perception of Academic Stress Scale ( Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ). The Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale is a seven-item scale designed to measure mental well-being and positive mental health ( Tennant et al., 2007 ; Fung, 2019 ; Shah et al., 2021 ). The Perception of Academic Stress Scale is an 18-item scale designed to assess sources of academic stress perceived by individuals and measures three main academic stressors: academic expectations, workload and examinations, and academic self-perceptions of students ( Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ). These shorter scales were chosen to increase our response and study completion rates ( Kost and de Rosa, 2018 ). Both tools have been shown to be valid and reliable in college students with Likert scale responses ( Tennant et al., 2007 ; Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ; Ringdal et al., 2018 ; Fung, 2019 ; Koushede et al., 2019 ). Both the SWEMWBS and PAS scores are a summation of responses to the individual questions in the instruments. For the SWEMWBS questions, a higher score indicates better mental health, and scores range from 7 to 35. Similarly, the PAS questions are phrased such that a higher score indicates lower levels of stress, and scores range from 18 to 90. We augmented the survey with demographic questions (e.g., age, gender, and race/ethnicity) at the beginning of the survey and two yes/no questions and one Likert scale question about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of our survey.
Participants for the study were self-reported college students between the ages of 18 and 30 years who resided in the United States, were fluent in English, and had Internet access. Participants were solicited through Prolific ( https://prolific.co ) in October 2021. A total of 1,023 individuals enrolled in the survey. Three individuals did not agree to participate after beginning the survey. Two were not fluent in English. Thirteen individuals indicated that they were not college students. Two were not in the 18–30 age range, and one was located outside of the United States. Of the remaining individuals, 906 were full-time students and 96 were part-time students. Given the skew of the data and potential differences in these populations, we removed the part-time students. Of the 906 full-time students, 58 indicated that they were in their fifth year of college or higher. We understand that not every student completes their undergraduate studies in 4 years, but we did not want to have a mixture of undergraduate and graduate students with no way to differentiate them. Finally, one individual reported their age as a non-number, and four individuals did not answer a question about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This yielded a final sample of 843 college students.
After reviewing the dataset, some variables were removed from consideration due to a lack of consistency (e.g., some students reported annual income for themselves and others reported family income) or heterogeneity that prevented easy categorization (e.g., field of study). We settled on four variables of interest: gender, race/ethnicity, year in school, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic ( Table 1 ). Gender was coded as female, male, or non-binary. Race/ethnicity was coded as white or Caucasian; Black or African American; East Asian; Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin; or other. Other was used for groups that were not well-represented in the sample and included individuals who identified themselves as Middle Eastern, Native American or Alaskan Native, and South Asian, as well as individuals who chose “other” or “prefer not to answer” on the survey. The year of study was coded as one through four, and COVID-19 stress was coded as two groups, no change/neutral response/reduced stress or increased stress.
Table 1 . Characteristics of the participants in the study.
Our first goal was to determine whether there was a relationship between self-reported academic stress and mental health, and we found a significant correlation (see Results section). Given the positive correlation, a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with a model testing the main effects of gender, race/ethnicity, and year of study was run in SPSS v 26.0. A factorial MANOVA would have been ideal, but our data were drawn from a convenience sample, which did not give equal representation to all groupings, and some combinations of gender, race/ethnicity, and year of study were poorly represented (e.g., a single individual). As such, we determined that it would be better to have a lack of interaction terms as a limitation to the study than to provide potentially spurious results. Finally, we used chi-square analyses to assess the effect of potential differences in the perception of the COVID-19 pandemic on stress levels in general among the groups in each category (gender, race/ethnicity, and year of study).
In terms of internal consistency, Cronbach's alpha was 0.82 for the SMEMWBS and 0.86 for the PAS. A variety of descriptors have been applied to Cronbach's alpha values. That said, 0.7 is often considered a threshold value in terms of acceptable internal consistency, and our values could be considered “high” or “good” ( Taber, 2018 ).
The participants in our study were primarily women (78.5% of respondents; Table 1 ). Participants were not equally distributed among races/ethnicities, with the majority of students selecting white or Caucasian (66.4% of responders; Table 1 ), or years of study, with fewer first-year students than other groups ( Table 1 ).
Students who reported higher academic stress also reported worse mental well-being in general, irrespective of age, gender, race/ethnicity, or year of study. PAS and SWEMWBS scores were significantly correlated ( r = 0.53, p < 0.001; Figure 1 ), indicating that a higher level of perceived academic stress is associated with worse mental well-being in college students within the United States.
Figure 1 . SWEMWBS and PAS scores for all participants.
Among the subgroups of students, women, non-binary students, and second-year students reported higher academic stress levels and worse mental well-being ( Table 2 ; Figures 2 – 4 ). In addition, the combined measures differed significantly between the groups in each category ( Table 2 ). However, as measured by partial eta squared, the effect sizes were relatively small, given the convention of 0.01 = small, 0.06 = medium, and 0.14 = large differences ( Lakens, 2013 ). As such, there were only two instances in which Tukey's post-hoc tests revealed more than one statistical grouping ( Figures 2 – 4 ). For SWEMWBS score by gender, women were intermediate between men (high) and non-binary individuals (low) and not significantly different from either group ( Figure 2 ). Second-year students had the lowest PAS scores for the year of study, and first-year students had the highest scores. Third- and fourth-year students were intermediate and not statistically different from the other two groups ( Figure 4 ). There were no pairwise differences in academic stress levels or mental well-being among racial/ethnic groups.
Table 2 . Results of the MANOVA.
Figure 2 . SWEMWBS and PAS scores according to gender (mean ± SEM). Different letters for SWEMWBS scores indicate different statistical groupings ( p < 0.05).
Figure 3 . SWEMWBS and PAS scores according to race/ethnicity (mean ± SEM).
Figure 4 . SWEMWBS and PAS scores according to year in college (mean ± SEM). Different letters for PAS scores indicate different statistical groupings ( p < 0.05).
The findings varied among categories in terms of stress responses due to the COVID-19 pandemic ( Table 3 ). For gender, men were less likely than women or non-binary individuals to report increased stress from COVID-19 (χ 2 = 27.98, df = 2, p < 0.001). All racial/ethnic groups responded similarly to the pandemic (χ 2 = 3.41, df = 4, p < 0.49). For the year of study, first-year students were less likely than other cohorts to report increased stress from COVID-19 (χ 2 = 9.38, df = 3, p < 0.03).
Table 3 . Impact of COVID-19 on stress level by gender, race/ethnicity, and year of study.
Our primary findings showed a positive correlation between perceived academic stress and mental well-being in United States college students, suggesting that academic stressors, including academic expectations, workload and grading, and students' academic self-perceptions, are equally important as psychological well-being. Overall, irrespective of gender, race/ethnicity, or year of study, students who reported higher academic stress levels experienced diminished mental well-being. The utilization of well-established scales and a large sample size are strengths of this study. Our results extend and contribute to the existing literature on stress by confirming findings from past studies that reported higher academic stress and lower psychological well-being in college students utilizing the same two scales ( Green et al., 2021 ; Syed, 2021 ). To our knowledge, the majority of other prior studies with similar findings examined different components of stress, studied negative mental health indicators, used different scales or methods, employed smaller sample sizes, or were conducted in different countries ( Li and Lin, 2003 ; American Psychological Association, 2020 ; Husky et al., 2020 ; Pascoe et al., 2020 ; Patsali et al., 2020 ; Clabaugh et al., 2021 ; Lee et al., 2021 ; Lopes and Nihei, 2021 ; Yang et al., 2021 ).
This study also demonstrated that college students are not uniformly impacted by academic stress or pandemic-related stress and that there are significant group-level differences in mental well-being. Specifically, non-binary individuals and second-year students were disproportionately impacted by academic stress. When considering the effects of gender, non-binary students, in comparison to gender-conforming students, reported the highest stress levels and worst psychological well-being. Although there is a paucity of research examining the impact of academic stress in non-binary college students, prior studies have indicated that non-binary adults face adverse mental health outcomes when compared to male and female-identifying individuals ( Thorne et al., 2018 ; Jones et al., 2019 ; Budge et al., 2020 ). Alarmingly, Lipson et al. (2019) found that gender non-conforming college students were two to four times more likely to experience mental health struggles than cisgender students ( Lipson et al., 2019 ). With a growing number of college students in the United States identifying as as non-binary, additional studies could offer invaluable insight into how academic stress affects this population ( Budge et al., 2020 ).
In addition, we found that second-year students reported the most academic-related distress and lowest psychological well-being relative to students in other years of study. We surmise this may be due to this group taking advanced courses, managing heavier academic workloads, and exploring different majors. Other studies support our findings and suggest higher stress levels could be attributed to increased studying and difficulties with time management, as well as having less well-established social support networks and coping mechanisms compared to upperclassmen ( Allen and Hiebert, 1991 ; Misra and McKean, 2000 ; Liu, X et al., 2019 ). Benefiting from their additional experience, upperclassmen may have developed more sophisticated studying skills, formed peer support groups, and identified approaches to better manage their academic stress ( Allen and Hiebert, 1991 ; Misra and McKean, 2000 ). Our findings suggest that colleges should consider offering tailored mental health resources, such as time management and study skill workshops, based on the year of study to improve students' stress levels and psychological well-being ( Liu, X et al., 2019 ).
Although this study reported no significant differences regarding race or ethnicity, this does not indicate that minority groups experienced less academic stress or better mental well-being ( Lee et al., 2021 ). Instead, our results may reflect the low sample size of non-white races/ethnicities, which may not have given enough statistical power to corroborate. In addition, since coping and resilience are important mediators of subjective stress experiences ( Freire et al., 2020 ), we speculate that the lower ratios of stress reported in non-white participants in our study (75 vs. 81) may be because they are more accustomed to adversity and thereby more resilient ( Brown, 2008 ; Acheampong et al., 2019 ). Furthermore, ethnic minority students may face stigma when reporting mental health struggles ( Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Lee et al., 2021 ). For instance, studies showed that Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American students disclose fewer mental health issues than white students ( Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ; Lee et al., 2021 ). Moreover, the ability to identify stressors and mental health problems may manifest differently culturally for some minority groups ( Huang and Zane, 2016 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ). Contrary to our findings, other studies cited racial disparities in academic stress levels and mental well-being of students. More specifically, Negga et al. (2007) concluded that African American college students were more susceptible to higher academic stress levels than their white classmates ( Negga et al., 2007 ). Another study reported that minority students experienced greater distress and worse mental health outcomes compared to non-minority students ( Smith et al., 2014 ). Since there may be racial disparities in access to mental health services at the college level, universities, professors, and counselors should offer additional resources to support these students while closely monitoring their psychological well-being ( Lipson et al., 2018 ; Liu, C. H., et al., 2019 ).
While the COVID-19 pandemic increased stress levels in all the students included in our study, women, non-binary students, and upperclassmen were disproportionately affected. An overwhelming body of evidence suggests that the majority of college students experienced increased stress levels and worsening mental health as a result of the pandemic ( Allen and Hiebert, 1991 ; American Psychological Association, 2020 ; Husky et al., 2020 ; Patsali et al., 2020 ; Son et al., 2020 ; Clabaugh et al., 2021 ; Lee et al., 2021 ; Yang et al., 2021 ). Our results also align with prior studies that found similar subgroups of students experience disproportionate pandemic-related distress ( Gao et al., 2020 ; Clabaugh et al., 2021 ; Hunt et al., 2021 ; Jarrett et al., 2021 ; Lee et al., 2021 ; Chen and Lucock, 2022 ). In particular, the differences between female students and their male peers may be the result of different psychological and physiological responses to stress reactivity, which in turn may contribute to different coping mechanisms to stress and the higher rates of stress-related disorders experienced by women ( Misra et al., 2000 ; Kajantie and Phillips, 2006 ; Verma et al., 2011 ; Gao et al., 2020 ; Graves et al., 2021 ). COVID-19 was a secondary consideration in our study and survey design, so the conclusions drawn here are necessarily limited.
The implications of this study are that college students facing increased stress and struggling with mental health issues should receive personalized and specific mental health services, resources, and support. This is particularly true for groups that have been disproportionately impacted by academic stress and stress due to the pandemic. Many students who experience mental health struggles underutilize college services due to cost, stigma, or lack of information ( Cage et al., 2020 ; Lee et al., 2021 ). To raise awareness and destigmatize mental health, colleges can consider distributing confidential validated assessments, such as the PAS and SWEMWBS, in class and teach students to self-score ( Lee et al., 2021 ). These results can be used to understand how academic stress and mental well-being change over time and allow for specific and targeted interventions for vulnerable groups. In addition, teaching students healthy stress management techniques has been shown to improve psychological well-being ( Alborzkouh et al., 2015 ). Moreover, adaptive coping strategies, including social and emotional support, have been found to improve the mental well-being of students, and stress-reduction peer support groups and workshops on campus could be beneficial in reducing stress and improving the self-efficacy of students ( Ruthig et al., 2009 ; Baqutayan, 2011 ; Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ; Freire et al., 2020 ; Green et al., 2021 ; Suresh et al., 2021 ). Other interventions that have been effective in improving the coping skills of college students include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness mediation, and online coping tools ( Kang et al., 2009 ; Regehr et al., 2013 ; Molla Jafar et al., 2015 ; Phang et al., 2015 ; Houston et al., 2017 ; Yusufov et al., 2019 ; Freire et al., 2020 ). Given that resilience has also been shown to help mediate stress and improve mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, interventions focusing on enhancing resilience should be considered ( Surzykiewicz et al., 2021 ; Skalski et al., 2022 ). Telemental health resources across colleges can also be implemented to reduce stigma and improve at-risk students' access to care ( Toscos et al., 2018 ; Hadler et al., 2021 ). University campuses, professors, and counselors should consider focusing on fostering a more equitable and inclusive environment to encourage marginalized students to seek mental health support ( Budge et al., 2020 ).
While our study has numerous strengths, including using standardized instruments and a large sample size, this study also has several limitations due to both the methodology and sample. First, the correlational study design precludes making any causal relationships ( Misra and McKean, 2000 ). Thereby, our findings should be taken in the context of academic stress and mental well-being, and recognize that mental health could be caused by other non-academic factors. Second, the PAS comprised only the perception of responses to academic stress, but stress is a multi-factorial response that encompasses both perceptions and coping mechanisms to different stressors, and the magnitude of stress varies with the perception of the degree of uncontrollability, unpredictability, or threat to self ( Miller, 1981 ; Hobfoll and Walfisch, 1984 ; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984 ; Wheaton, 1985 ; Perrewé and Zellars, 1999 ; Schneiderman et al., 2005 ; Bedewy and Gabriel, 2015 ; Schönfeld et al., 2016 ; Reddy et al., 2018 ; Freire et al., 2020 ; Karyotaki et al., 2020 ). Third, the SWEMSBS used in our study and the data only measured positive mental health. Mental health pathways are numerous and complex, and are composed of distinct and interdependent negative and positive indicators that should be considered together ( Margraf et al., 2020 ). Fourth, due to the small effect sizes and unequal representation for different combinations of variables, our analysis for both the PAS and SWEMSBS included only summed-up scales and did not examine group differences in response to the type of academic stressors or individual mental health questions.
An additional limitation is that the participants in our study were a convenience sample. The testing service we used, prolific.co, self-reports a sample bias toward young women of high levels of education (i.e., WEIRD bias) ( Team Prolific, 2018 ). The skew toward this population was observed in our data, as 80% of our participants were women. While we controlled for these factors, the possibility remains that the conclusions we draw for certain groups, such as nonbinary students, ethnic/racial minorities, and men, may not be as statistically powerful as they should be. Moreover, our pre-screening was designed to recruit undergraduate level, English-speaking, 18–30-year-olds who resided in the United States. This resulted in our participant demographics being skewed toward the WEIRD bias that was already inherent in the testing service we used. Future research will aim to be more inclusive of diverse races/ethnicities, sexual orientations, languages, educational backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.
Another limitation of our study is the nature of satisficing. Satisficing is a response strategy in which a participant answers a question to satisfy its condition with little regard to the quality or accuracy of the answer ( Roberts et al., 2019 ). Anonymous participants are more likely to satisfice than respondents who answer the question face-to-face ( Krosnick et al., 2002 ). We sought to mitigate satisficing by offering financial incentives to increase response rates and decrease straight-lining, item skipping, total missing items, and non-completion ( Cole et al., 2015 ). Concerns of poor data quality due to surveys offering financial incentives found little evidence to support that claim and may do the opposite ( Cole et al., 2015 ). On the other hand, social desirability bias may have influenced the participant's self-reported responses, although our anonymous survey design aimed to reduce this bias ( Joinson, 1999 ; Kecojevic et al., 2020 ).
Future studies should replicate our study to validate our results, conduct longitudinal cohort studies to examine well-being and perceived academic stress over time, and aim for a more representative student sample that includes various groups, including diverse races/ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, languages, educational levels, and first-generation college students. Additionally, these studies should consider examining other non-academic stressors and students' coping mechanisms, both of which contribute to mental health and well-being ( Lazarus and Folkman, 1984 ; Freire et al., 2020 ). Further explorations of negative and other positive indicators of mental health may offer a broader perspective ( Margraf et al., 2020 ). Moreover, future research should consider extending our work by exploring group differences in relation to each factor in the PAS (i.e., academic expectations, workload and examinations, and self-perception of students) and SWEMBS to determine which aspects of academic stress and mental health were most affected and allow for the devising of targeted stress-reduction approaches. Ultimately, we hope our research spurs readers into advocating for greater academic support and access to group-specific mental health resources to reduce the stress levels of college students and improve their mental well-being.
Utilizing two well-established scales, our research found a statistically significant correlation between the perceived academic stress of university students and their mental well-being (i.e., the higher the stress, the worse the well-being). This relationship was most apparent among gender and grade levels. More specifically, non-binary and second-year students experienced greater academic burden and lower psychological well-being. Moreover, women, non-binary students, and upper-level students were disproportionately impacted by stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studies regarding broad concepts of stress and well-being using a questionnaire are limited, but our study adds value to the understanding of academic stress as a contributor to the overall well-being of college students during this specific point in time (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic). Competition both for admission to college ( Bound et al., 2009 ) and during college ( Posselt and Lipson, 2016 ) has increased over time. Further, selective American colleges and universities draw applicants from a global pool. As such, it is important to document the dynamics of academic stress with renewed focus. We hope that our study sparks interest in both exploring and funding in-depth and well-designed psychological studies related to stress in colleges in the future.
Data Availability Statement
The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by Institutional Review Board at Rutgers University. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.
GB and MB contributed to conceptualization, study design, IRB application, manuscript drafting, and revision. XZ participated in the conceptualization and design of the questionnaires. HB participated in subject recruitment and questionnaire collection. KP contributed to data analysis, table and figure preparation, manuscript drafting, and revision. XM contributed to conceptualization, study design, IRB application, supervision of the project, manuscript drafting, and revision. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.
This study was made possible by a generous donation from the Knights of Columbus East Hanover Chapter in New Jersey.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.
The authors wish to thank Shivani Mehta and Varsha Garla for their assistance with the study. We also thank all the participants for their efforts in the completion of the study.
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Keywords: academic stress, well-being, college students, Perception of Academic Stress, Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale, COVID-19
Citation: Barbayannis G, Bandari M, Zheng X, Baquerizo H, Pecor KW and Ming X (2022) Academic Stress and Mental Well-Being in College Students: Correlations, Affected Groups, and COVID-19. Front. Psychol. 13:886344. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.886344
Received: 28 February 2022; Accepted: 20 April 2022; Published: 23 May 2022.
Copyright © 2022 Barbayannis, Bandari, Zheng, Baquerizo, Pecor and Ming. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Keith W. Pecor, firstname.lastname@example.org
† These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship
This article is part of the Research Topic
Understanding Socioemotional And Academic Adjustment During Childhood And Adolescence: Volume II
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ACADEMIC STRESS AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF BEEd STUDENTS OF THE COLLEGE OF TEACHER EDUCATION IN OCCIDENTAL MINDORO STATE COLLEGE A THESIS PROPOSAL
Studies conducted in recent years throughout the world have shown that people are growingly more exposed to stress, its level increasing dramatically over time. Thus, stress has been identified as one of the major scourges of our modern era. It seems that not only adults but also children are affected; pupils and students are also experiencing stressful life situations that can be harmful to their overall condition and health. The transition from pre-academic to academic education, the need to adapt to independent living, to gain insight into new social networks, to comply with high academic requirements constitute potential stressors that may affect the performance of students. Considering all these issues a comprehensive assessment of stress is required, from the perspective of the authors in the field, from analyzing the views of students in the research group and from formulating a personal opinion which can support the effort to reduce stress using coping strategies so that the...
STEPHEN E. POMPILUS (PhD)
Stress is a natural phenomenon of emotional or physical tension due to a demand or challenge, which can come from a variety of different events or thoughts often leading to sadness, frustrations, and nervousness. In addition, as related to positivity, it is the body's reaction as a defensive mechanism to avoid danger; however, too much of it like anything else in life is not good for survival. In academic settings, stress plays major factors on student academic achievements. When students are overwhelmed by stress, it can take over their ability to focus and study on and off campus, so this paper has shown the effects of stress on academic performance like dropping of classes and school. Since stress affects thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, the impact of stress on academic performance plays major roles in learning both on and off campus. This paper aims to present studies about the stress related to the academic performance of students. The scope will be limited to the definition of academic stress, the sources of stress, factors affecting it, and its impact on the academic performance of students. Finally, a list of recommendations on how to cope with stress related expected academic performance.
International Journal of Advance Research in Computer Science and Management Studies [IJARCSMS] ijarcsms.com
The European Proceedings of Multidisciplinary Sciences
rohaiza mohamad idaris
Current study explored the effect of academic stress on students' performance and the impact of demographic variables like gender, age and educational level. A sample of one hundred and fifty students was taken from different universities located in Islamabad. Seventy-five respondents were males and the remaining seventy-five were females. The results showed significant effect of academic stress on student's performance. There was a non-significant difference between male and female university students on scores on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). A significant difference between junior and senior students was found on the PSS. Academic stress was found to be higher in younger students than older students. There was a non-significant difference on PSS scores among students when stress was measured at the beginning and at the end of the semester.
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Dr Yashpal D Netragaonkar
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Assem Humphrey Darkeh
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Family and Academic Stress and Their Impact on Students' Depression Level and Academic Performance
1 School of Mechatronics Engineering, Daqing Normal University, Daqing, China
2 School of Marxism, Heilongjiang University, Harbin, China
3 College of Business, Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Noor Un Nisa Khan
4 Faculty of Business Administration, Iqra University Karachi Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan
5 Faculty of Department of Business Administration, Greenwich University Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan
Muhammad Safdar Sial
6 Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), Islamabad, Pakistan
7 Department of Business Sciences, University Giustino Fortunato, Benevento, Italy
8 Faculty of Mining, Ecology, Process Control and Geotechnologies, Technical University of Kosice, Kosice, Slovakia
9 Hungarian National Bank–Research Center, John von Neumann University, Kecskemét, Hungary
10 College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.
Current research examines the impact of academic and familial stress on students' depression levels and the subsequent impact on their academic performance based on Lazarus' cognitive appraisal theory of stress. The non-probability convenience sampling technique has been used to collect data from undergraduate and postgraduate students using a modified questionnaire with a five-point Likert scale. This study used the SEM method to examine the link between stress, depression, and academic performance. It was confirmed that academic and family stress leads to depression among students, negatively affecting their academic performance and learning outcomes. This research provides valuable information to parents, educators, and other stakeholders concerned about their childrens' education and performance.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) are believed to be one of the strongest pillars in the growth of any nation ( 1 ). Being the principal stakeholder, the performance of HEIs mainly relies on the success of its students ( 2 ). To successfully compete in the prevailing dynamic industrial environment, students are not only supposed to develop their knowledge but are also expected to have imperative skills and abilities ( 3 ). In the current highly competitive academic environment, students' performance is largely affected by several factors, such as social media, academic quality, family and social bonding, etc. ( 4 ). Aafreen et al. ( 2 ) stated that students continuously experience pressure from different sources during academic life, which ultimately causes stress among students.
Stress is a common factor that largely diminishes individual morale ( 5 ). It develops when a person cannot handle their inner and outer feelings. When the stress becomes chronic or exceeds a certain level, it affects an individual's mental health and may lead to different psychological disorders, such as depression ( 6 ). Depression is a worldwide illness marked by feelings of sadness and the inability to feel happy or satisfied ( 7 ). Nowadays, it is a common disorder, increasing day by day. According to the World Health Organization ( 8 , 9 ), depression was ranked third among the global burden of disease and predicted to take over first place by 2030.
Depression leads to decreased energy, difficulty thinking, concentrating, and making career decisions ( 6 ). Students are a pillar of the future in building an educated society. For them, academic achievement is a big goal of life and can severely be affected if the students fall prey to depression ( 10 , 11 ). There can be several reasons for this: family issues, exposure to a new lifestyle in colleges and universities, poor academic grades, favoritism by teachers, etc. Never-ending stress or academic pressure of studies can also be a chief reason leading to depression in students ( 12 ). There is a high occurrence of depression in emerging countries, and low mental health literacy has been theorized as one of the key causes of escalating rates of mental illness ( 13 ).
Several researchers, such as ( 6 , 14 , 15 ) have studied stress and depression elements from a performance perspective and reported that stress and depression negatively affect the academic performance of students. However, Aafreen et al. ( 2 ) reported contradictory results and stated that stress sharpens the individual's mind and reflexes and enables workers to perform better in taxing situations. Ardalan ( 16 ) conducted a study in the United States (US). They reported that depression is a common issue among students in the US, and 20 percent of them may have a depressive disorder spanning 12 months or more. It affects students' mental and physical health and limits their social relationships and professional career.
However, the current literature provides mixed results on the relationship between stress and performance. Therefore, the current research investigates stress among students from family and academic perspectives using Lazaru's theory which describes stress as a relation between an individual and his environment and examines how it impacts students' depression level, leading to their academic performance. Most of the available studies on stress and depression are from industrial perspectives, and limited attention is paid to stress from family and institutional perspectives and examines its impact on students' depression level, leading to their academic performance, particularly in Pakistan, the place of the study. Besides, the present study follows a multivariate statistical technique, followed by structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine the relationship between stated variables which is also a study's uniqueness.
This paper is divided into five main sections. The current section provided introduction, theoretical perspective, and background of the study. In the second section, a theoretical framework, a detailed literature review and research hypotheses of the underlying relationships are being proposed. In the third and fourth section, methodology and analysis have been discussed. Finally, in the last section, the conclusion, limitations, implications, and recommendations for future research have been proposed.
Theory and Literature
The idea of cognitive appraisal theory was presented in 1966 by psychologist Richard Lazarus in Psychological Stress and Coping Process. According to this theory, appraisal and coping are two concepts that are central to any psychological stress theory. Both are interrelated. According to the theory, stress is the disparity between stipulations placed on the individuals and their coping resources ( 17 ). Since its first introduction as a comprehensive theory ( 18 ), a few modifications have been experienced in theory later. The recent adaptation states that stress is not defined as a specific incitement or psychological, behavioral, or subjective response. Rather, stress is seen as a relation between an individual and his environment ( 19 ). Individuals appraise the environment as significant for their well-being and try to cope with the exceeding demands and challenges.
Cognitive appraisal is a model based on the idea that stress and other emotional processes depend on a person's expectancies regarding the significance and outcome of an event, encounter, or function. This explains why there are differences in intensity, duration, and quality of emotions elicited in people in response to the environment, which objectively, are equal for all ( 18 ). These appraisals may be influenced by various factors, including a person's goals, values, motivations, etc., and are divided into primary and secondary appraisals, specific patterns of which lead to different kinds of stress ( 20 ). On the other hand, coping is defined as the efforts made by a person to minimize, tolerate, or master the internal and external demands placed on them, a concept intimately related to cognitive appraisal and, therefore, to the stress-relevant person-environment transactions.
Individuals experience different mental and physiological changes when encountering pressure, such as stress ( 21 , 22 ). The feelings of stress can be either due to factors in the external environment or subjective emotions of individuals, which can even lead to psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. Excess stress can cause health problems. A particularly negative impact has been seen in students due to the high level of stress they endure, affecting their learning outcomes. Various methods are used to tackle stress. One of the methods is trying to pinpoint the causes of stress, which leads us to different terms such as family stress and academic stress. The two factors, stress and depression, have greatly impacted the students' academic performances. This research follows the Lazarus theory based on stress to examine the variables. See the conceptual framework of the study in Figure 1 .
Academic issues are thought to be the most prevalent source of stress for college students ( 23 ). For example, according to Yang et al. ( 24 ), students claimed that academic-related pressures such as ongoing study, writing papers, preparing for tests, and boring professors were the most important daily problems. Exams and test preparation, grade level competitiveness, and gaining a big quantity of knowledge in a short period of time all contribute to academic pressure. Perceived stress refers to a condition of physical or psychological arousal in reaction to stressors ( 25 , 26 ). When college students face excessive or negative stress, they suffer physical and psychological consequences. Excessive stress can cause health difficulties such as fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues. Academic stress has been linked to a variety of negative effects, including ill health, anxiety, depression, and poor academic performance. Travis et al. ( 27 ), in particular, discovered strong links between academic stress and psychological and physical health.
Parental participation and learning effect how parents treat their children, as well as how they handle their children's habits and cognitive processes ( 28 ). This, in turn, shapes their children's performance and behaviors toward them. As a result, the parent-child relationship is dependent on the parents' attitudes, understanding, and perspectives. When parents have positive views, the relationship between them and their children will be considerably better than when they have negative attitudes. Parents respond to unpleasant emotions in a variety of ways, which can be classified as supportive or non-supportive ( 29 ). Parents' supportive reactions encourage children to explore their emotions by encouraging them to express them or by assisting them in understanding and coping with an emotion-eliciting scenario. Non-supportive behaviors, such as downplaying the kid's emotional experience, disciplining the child, or getting concerned by the child's display, transmit the child the message that expressing unpleasant emotions is inappropriate and unacceptable. Supportive parental reactions to unpleasant emotions in children have been linked to dimensions of emotional and social competence, such as emotion comprehension and friendship quality. Non-supportive or repressive parental reactions, on the other hand, have been connected to a child's stored negative affect and disordered behaviors during emotion-evoking events, probably due to an inability or unwillingness to communicate unpleasant sentiments ( 30 , 31 ).
Academic Stress and Students' Depression Levels
Generally, it is believed that mental health improves as we enter into adulthood, and depression disorder starts to decline between the age of 18 and 25. On the other hand, excessive depression rates are the highest pervasiveness during this evolution ( 15 ), and many university students in the particular screen above clinical cut-off scores for huge depression ( 14 , 32 ). Afreen et al. ( 2 ) stated that 30% of high school students experience depression from different perspectives. This means a major chunk of fresh high school graduates are more likely to confront depression or are more vulnerable to encountering depression while enrolling in the university. As the students promote to a higher level of education, there are many factors while calculating the stress like, for example, the syllabus is tough to comprehend, assignments are quite challenging with unrealistic deadlines, and accommodation problems for the students who are shifted from other cities, etc. ( 33 ). Experiences related to university can also contribute while studying depression. The important thing to consider is depression symptoms vary from time to time throughout the academic years ( 34 ); subjective and objective experiences are directly connected to the depression disorder ( 6 ), stress inherent in the university situation likely donates to the difference in university students' depressing experiences.
Stress negatively impacts students' mental peace, and 42.3% of students of Canadian university respondents testified devastating levels of anxiety and stress ( 35 , 36 ). Moreover, there were (58.1%) students who stated academic projects are too tough to handle for them. In Germany, Bulgaria, and Poland, a huge sample of respondents consider assignments a burden on their lives that cannot stand compared to relationships or any other concern in life ( 14 ).
In several countries, university students were studied concerning stress, and results show that depression disorder and apparent anxiety are correlated to educational needs and demands ( 37 ). In their cross-sectional study conducted on a sample of 900 Canadian students, Lörz et al. ( 38 ) concluded that strain confronted due to academic workload relatively has high bleak symptoms even after controlling 13 different risk affecting factors for depression (e.g., demographic features, abusive past, intellectual way, and personality, currently experienced stressful trials in life, societal support). Few have exhibited that students who are tired of educational workload or the students who name them traumatic tend to have more depressing disorders ( 15 ).
These relations can be described by examining the stress and coping behaviors that highlight the role of positive judgments in the stress times ( 39 ), containing the Pancer and colleagues' university modification framework ( 40 , 41 ). The evaluation concept includes examining the circumstances against the available resources, for instance, the effectiveness of coping behavior and societal support. As per these frameworks, if demand is considered unapproachable and resources are lacking, confronted stress and interrelated adverse effects will be high, conceivably giving birth to difficulties in an adjustment like mental instability. Stress triggering situations and the resources in the educational area led to excessive workload, abilities, and study and enhanced time managing skills.
Sketching the overall evaluation frameworks, Pancer et al. ( 40 ) established their framework to exhibit the constructive and damaging adjustment results for the university students dealing with the academic challenges. They stated that while students enroll in the university, they evaluate all the stress-related factors that students confront. They consider them manageable as long as they have sufficient resources. On the other hand, if the available resources do not match the stress factors, it will surely result in a negative relationship, which will lead students to experience depression for sure. Based on the given arguments, the researcher formulates the following hypothesis:
- H1: Increased academic stress results in increased depression levels in students.
Family Stress and Students' Depression Levels
According to Topuzoglu et al. ( 42 ), 3% to 16.9% of individuals are affected by depression worldwide. There are fewer chances for general people to confront depression than university students ( 43 , 44 ). In Mirza et al.'s ( 45 ) study, 1/3 of students encounter stress and depression (a subjective mean occurrence of 30.6%) of all participant students, which suggests students have a 9% higher rate of experiencing depression than general people. Depression can destroy life; it greatly impacts living a balanced life. It can impact students' personal and social relationships, educational efficiency, quality of life, affecting their social and family relationships, academic productivity, and bodily operations ( 46 , 47 ). This declines their abilities, and they get demotivated to learn new things, resulting in unsatisfactory performances, and it can even result in university dropouts ( 48 ). Depression is a continuous substantial risk aspect for committing suicide for university students ( 49 ); thus, it is obliged to discover the factors that can give rise to students' depression.
Seventy-five percentage of students in China of an intermediate school are lucky enough to enroll in higher education. The more students pursue higher education, the more they upsurge for depression (in 2002, the depression rate was 5 to 10%, 2011 it rises 24 to 38%) ( 5 ). Generally, University students' age range is late teens to early twenties, i.e., 18–23 years. Abbas ( 50 ) named the era of university students as “post-adolescence. Risk factors for teenage depression have several and complicated problems of individual characteristics and family and educational life ( 51 ). Amongst the huge depression factors, relationship building with family demands a major chunk of attention and time since factors like parenting and family building play an important role in children's development ( 52 , 53 ). Halonen et al. ( 54 ) concluded that factors like family binding play a major role in development, preservation, and driving adolescent depression. Generally speaking, depressed teenagers tend to have a weaker family relationship with their parents than non-depressed teenagers.
There are two types of family risk factors, soft and hard. Hard factors are encountered in families with a weak family building structure, parents are little to no educated at all, and of course, the family status (economically). Several studies have proved that students of hard risk factors are more likely to encounter depression. Firstly, students from broken families have low confidence in every aspect of life, and they are weak at handling emotional breakdowns compared to students from complete and happy families ( 55 – 57 ). Secondly, the university students born in educated families, especially mothers (at least a college degree or higher degree), are less likely to confront depression than the university students born in families with little to no educated families. Secondly, children born with educated mothers or mothers who at least have a college degree tend to be less depressive than the children of less-educated mothers ( 58 ). However, Parker et al. and Mahmood et al. ( 59 , 60 ) stated a strong relationship between depression and mothers with low literacy levels.
On the other hand, Chang et al. ( 46 ) couldn't prove the authentication of this relationship in university students. Thirdly, university students who belong to lower class families tend to have more unstable mental states and are more likely to witness depression than middle or upper-class families ( 61 ). Jadoon et al. and Abbas et al. ( 62 , 63 ) said that there is no link between depression and economic status. Their irrelevance can be because medical students often come from educated and wealthy families and know their jobs are guaranteed as soon as they graduate. Therefore, the relationship between the hard family environment and depression can be known by targeting a huge audience, and there are several factors to consider while gauging this relationship.
The soft family environment is divided into clear factors (parenting style example, family guidelines, rules, the parent with academic knowledge, etc.) and implied factors (family norm, parent-child relationship, communication within the family, etc.). The soft factor is the key factor within the family that cannot be neglected while studying the teenagers' mental state or depression. Families make microsystems within the families, and families are the reason to build and maintain dysfunctional behavior by multiple functional procedures ( 64 ). Amongst the soft family environmental factors, consistency and struggles can be helpful while forecasting the mental health of teenagers. The youth of broken families, family conflict, weak family relationships, and marital issues, especially unhappy married life, are major factors for youth depression ( 65 ). Ruchkin et al. ( 66 ) stated that African Americans usually have weak family bonding, and their teenagers suffer from depression even when controlling for source bias. Whereas, few researchers have stated, family unity is the most serious factor while foreseeing teenagers' depression. Eaton noted that extreme broken family expressions might hurt emotionality and emotional regulation ( 67 , 68 ).
Social circle is also considered while studying depression in teenagers ( 69 – 71 ). The traditional Pakistani culture emphasizes collectivism and peace and focuses on blood relations and sensitive sentiments. Adolescents with this type of culture opt to get inspired by family, but students who live in hostels or share the room with other students lose this family inspiration. This transformation can be a big risk to encounter depression ( 72 ). Furthermore, in Pakistan securing employment is a big concern for university students. If they want a good job in the future, they have to score good grades and maintain GPA from the beginning. They have to face different challenges all at once, like aggressive educational competition, relationships with peers and family, and of course the biggest employment stress all alone. The only source for coping with these pressures is the family that can be helpful for fundings. If the students do not get ample support the chances are of extreme depression. The following hypothesis is suggested:
- H2: Increased family stress level results in increased depression levels in students.
Students' Depression Levels and Students' Academic Performance
University students denote many people experiencing a crucial conversion from teenagers to adulthood: a time that is generally considered the most traumatic time in one's ( 73 ). This then gets accumulated with other challenges like changes in social circle and exams tension, which possibly puts students' mental health at stake. It has been concluded that one-third of students experience moderate to severe depression in their entire student life ( 74 ). This is the rate that can be increased compared to the general people ( 75 , 76 ). Students with limited social-class resources tend to be more helpless. Additionally, depressed students in attainable-focused environments (for instance, higher academic institutes) are likely to score lower grades with a sense of failure and more insufficient self-assurance because they consider themselves failures, find the world unfair, and have future uncertainties. Furthermore, students with low self-esteem are rigid to take on challenging assignments and projects, hence they are damaging their educational career ( 77 ).
Depression can be defined as a blend of physical, mental, bodily processes, and benightedness which can make themselves obvious by symptoms like, for example, poor sleep schedule, lack of concentration, ill thoughts, and state of remorse ( 78 , 79 ). But, even after such a huge number of depressions in students and the poor academic system, research has not explored the effect of depression on educational performance. A study has shown that the relationship between emotional stability and academic performance in university students and financial status directly results in poor exam performance. As the study further concluded, it was verified depression is an independent factor ( 80 ). Likewise, students suffering from depression score poor grades, but this relationship vanished if their depression got treated. Apart from confidence breaking, depression is a big failure for their academic life. Students with depression symptoms bunk more classes, assessments, and assignments. They drop courses if they find them challenging than non-depressed peers, and they are more likely to drop out of university completely ( 81 ). Students suffering from depression can become ruthless, ultimately affecting their educational performance and making them moody ( 82 ).
However, it has been stated that the association between anxiety and educational performance is even worse and ambiguous. At the same time, some comprehensive research has noted that the greater the anxiousness, the greater the student's performance. On the other hand, few types of research have shown results where there is no apparent relationship between anxiety and poorer academic grades ( 83 ). Ironically, few studies have proposed that a higher anxiety level may improve academic performance ( 84 , 85 ). Current research by Khan et al. ( 86 ) on the undergraduate medical students stated that even though the high occurrence of huge depression between the students, the students GPA is unharmed. Therefore, based on given differences in various research findings, this research is supposed to find a more specific and clear answer to the shared relationship between students' depression levels and academic performance. Based on the given arguments, the researcher formulates the following hypothesis:
- H3: Students' depression level has a significant negative effect on their academic performance.
Target population and sampling procedure.
The target audience of this study contains all male and female students studying in the public, private, or semi-government higher education institutions located in Rawalpindi/Islamabad. The researchers collected data from undergraduate and postgraduate students from the management sciences, engineering, and computer science departments. The sampling technique which has been used is the non-probability sampling technique. A questionnaire was given to the students, and they were requested to fill it and give their opinion independently. The questionnaire is based on five points Likert scale.
However, stress and depression are the most common issue among the students, which affects their learning outcomes adversely. A non-probability sampling technique gathered the data from February 2020 to May 2020. The total questionnaires distributed among students were 220, and 186 responses were useful. Of which 119 respondents were females, 66 males, and 1 preferred not to disclose. See Table 1 for detailed demographic information of respondents.
Respondent's demographic profile.
We have divided this instrument into two portions. In the first section, there is demographic information of respondents. The second section includes 14 items based on family stress, academic stress, students' depression levels, and students' academic performance. Academic and family stress were measured by 3 item scale for each construct, and students' depression level and academic performance were measured by 4 item scale for each separate construct. The five-point Likert scale is used to measure the items, in which one signifies strongly disagree (S.D), second signifies disagree (D.A), third signifies neither agree nor disagree (N), fourth signifies agree (A.G), and the fifth signifies strongly agree (S.A). The questionnaire has been taken from Gold Berg ( 87 ), which is modified and used in the given questionnaire.
Data Analysis and Results
The researchers used the SEM technique to determine the correlation between stress, depression, and academic performance. According to Prajogo and Cooper ( 88 ), it can remove biased effects triggered by the measurement faults and shape a hierarchy of latent constructs. SPSS v.23 and AMOS v.23 have been used to analyze the collected data. Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin test is used to test the competence of the sample. The value obtained is 0.868, which fulfills the Kaiser et al. ( 89 ), a minimum requirement of 0.6. The multicollinearity factor was analyzed through the variance inflation factor (VIF). It shows the value of 3.648 and meets the requirement of Hair et al. ( 90 ), which is < 4. It also indicates the absence of multicollinearity. According to Schwarz et al. ( 91 ), common method bias (CMB) is quite complex in quantitative studies. Harman's test of a single factor has been used to analyze CMB. The result obtained for the single factor is 38.63%. As stated by Podsakoff et al. ( 92 ), if any of the factors gives value < 50% of the total variance, it is adequate and does not influence the CMB. Therefore, we can say that there is no issue with CMB. Considering the above results are adequate among the measurement and structural model, we ensure that the data is valued enough to analyze the relation.
Assessment of the Measurement and Structural Model
The association between the manifest factors and their elements is examined by measuring model and verified by the Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). CFA guarantees legitimacy and the unidimensional of the measurement model ( 93 ). Peterson ( 94 ) stated that the least required, i.e., 0.8 for the measurement model, fully complies with its Cronbach's alpha value, i.e., 0.802. Therefore, it can confidently be deduced that this measurement model holds satisfactory reliability. As for the psychological legitimacy can be analyzed through factor loading, where the ideal loading is above 0.6 for already established items ( 95 ). Also, according to the recommendation of Molina et al. ( 96 ), the minimum value of the average variance extracted (AVE) for all results is supposed to be >0.5. Table 2 gives detail of the variables and their quantity of things, factor loading, merged consistency, and AVE values.
Instrument reliability and validity.
A discriminant validity test was performed to ensure the empirical difference of all constructs. For this, it was proposed by Fornell and Larcker ( 97 ) that the variance of the results is supposed to be greater than other constructs. The second indicator of discriminant validity is that the square root values of AVE have a greater correlation between the two indicators. Hair et al. ( 90 ) suggested that the correlation between the pair of predictor variables should not be higher than 0.9. Table 3 shows that discriminant validity recommended by Hair et al. ( 90 ) and Fornell and Larcker ( 97 ) was proved clearly that both conditions are fulfilled and indicates that the constructs have adequate discriminant validity.
Discriminant validity analysis.
Acd. Strs, Academic Stress; Fam. Strs, Family Stress; Std. Dep. Lev, Student's Depression Level; Std. Acd. Perf, Student's Academic Performance .
Kaynak ( 98 ) described seven indicators that ensure that the measurement model fits correctly. These indicators include standardized root mean squared residual (SRMR), root means a square error of approximation (RMSEA), comparative fit index (CFI), normative fit index (NFI), adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI), the goodness of fit index (GFI) and chi-square to a degree of freedom (x 2 /DF). Tucker-Lewis's index (TLI) is also included to ensure the measurement and structural model's fitness. In the measurement model, the obtained result shows that the value of x 2 /DF is 1.898, which should be lower than 2 suggested by Byrne ( 99 ), and this value also meets the requirement of Bagozzi and Yi ( 100 ), i.e., <3. The RMSEA has the value 0.049, which fully meets the requirement of 0.08, as stated by Browne and Cudeck ( 101 ). Furthermore, the SRMR acquired value is 0.0596, which assemble with the required need of < 0.1 by Hu and Bentler ( 102 ). Moreover, according to Bentler and Bonett ( 103 ), McDonald and Marsh ( 104 ), and Bagozzi and Yi ( 100 ), the ideal value is 0.9, and the values obtained from NFI, GFI, AGFI, CFI, and TLI are above the ideal value.
Afterward, the structural model was analyzed and achieved the findings, which give the value of x 2 /DF 1.986. According to Browne and Cudeck ( 101 ), the RMSEA value should not be greater than 0.08, and the obtained value of RMSEA is 0.052, which meets the requirement perfectly. The minimum requirement of Hu and Bentler ( 102 ) should be <0.1, for the structural model fully complies with the SRMR value 0.0616. According to a recommendation of McDonald and Marsh ( 104 ) and Bagozzi and Yi ( 100 ), the ideal value must be up to 0.9, and Table 4 also shows that the values of NFI, GFI, AGFI, CFI, and TLI, which are above than the ideal value and meets the requirement. The above results show that both the measurement and structural models are ideally satisfied with the requirements and the collected data fits correctly.
Analysis of measurement and structural model.
Testing of Hypotheses
The SEM technique is used to examine the hypotheses. Each structural parameter goes along with the hypothesis. The academic stress (Acd. Strs) with the value β = 0.293 while the p -value is 0.003. These outcomes show a significant positive relationship between academic stress (Acd. Strs) and students' depression levels (Std. Dep. Lev). With the β = 0.358 and p = 0.001 values, the data analysis discloses that the family stress (Fam. Strs) has a significant positive effect on the students' depression level (Std. Dep. Lev). However, the student's depression level (Std. Dep. Lev) also has a significant negative effect on their academic performance (Std. Acd. Perf) with the values of β = −0.319 and p = 0.001. Therefore, the results supported the following hypotheses H 1 , H 2 , and H 3 . The sub-hypotheses analysis shows that the results are statistically significant and accepted. In Table 5 , the details of the sub-hypotheses and the principals are explained precisely. Please see Table 6 to review items with their mean and standard deviation values. Moreover, Figure 2 represents the structural model.
Examining the hypotheses.
Description of items, mean, and standard deviation.
Discussion and Conclusion
These findings add to our knowledge of how teenage depression is predicted by academic and familial stress, leading to poor academic performance, and they have practical implications for preventative and intervention programs to safeguard adolescents' mental health in the school context. The outcomes imply that extended academic stress positively impacts students' depression levels with a β of 0.293 and a p -value sof 0.003. However, according to Wang et al. ( 5 ), a higher level of academic stress is linked to a larger level of school burnout, which leads to a higher degree of depression. Satinsky et al. ( 105 ) also claimed that university officials and mental health specialists have expressed worry about depression and anxiety among Ph.D. students, and that his research indicated that depression and anxiety are quite common among Ph.D. students. Deb et al. ( 106 ) found the same results and concluded that depression, anxiety, behavioral difficulties, irritability, and other issues are common among students who are under a lot of academic stress. Similarly, Kokou-Kpolou et al. ( 107 ) revealed that depressive symptoms are common among university students in France. They also demonstrate that socioeconomic and demographic characteristics have a role.
However, Wang et al. ( 5 ) asserted that a higher level of academic stress is associated with a higher level of school burnout, which in return, leads to a higher level of depression. Furthermore, Satinsky et al. ( 105 ) also reported that university administrators and mental health clinicians have raised concerns about depression and anxiety and concluded in his research that depression and anxiety are highly prevalent among Ph.D. students. Deb et al. ( 106 ) also reported the same results and concluded that Depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, irritability, etc. are few of the many problems reported in students with high academic stress. Similary, Kokou-Kpolou et al. ( 107 ) confirmed that university students in France have a high prevalence of depressive symptoms. They also confirm that socio-demographic factors and perceived stress play a predictive role in depressive symptoms among university students. As a result, academic stress has spread across all countries, civilizations, and ethnic groups. Academic stress continues to be a serious problem impacting a student's mental health and well-being, according to the findings of this study.
With the β= 0.358 and p = 0.001 values, the data analysis discloses that the family stress (Fam. Strs) has a significant positive effect on the students' depression level (Std. Dep. Lev). Aleksic ( 108 ) observed similar findings and concluded that many and complicated concerns of personal traits, as well as both home and school contexts, are risk factors for teenage depression. Similarly, Wang et al. ( 109 ) indicated that, among the possible risk factors for depression, family relationships need special consideration since elements like parenting styles and family dynamics influence how children grow. Family variables influence the onset, maintenance, and course of juvenile depression, according to another study ( 110 ). Depressed adolescents are more likely than normal teenagers to have bad family and parent–child connections.
Conversely, students' depression level has a significantly negative impact on their academic performance with β and p -values of −0.319 and 0.001. According ( 111 ), anxiety and melancholy have a negative influence on a student's academic performance. Adolescents and young adults suffer from depression, which is a common and dangerous mental illness. It's linked to an increase in family issues, school failure, especially among teenagers, suicide, drug addiction, and absenteeism. While the transition to adulthood is a high-risk period for depression in general ( 5 ), young people starting college may face extra social and intellectual challenges that increase their risk of melancholy, anxiety, and stress ( 112 ). Students' high rates of depression, anxiety, and stress have serious consequences. Not only may psychological morbidity have a negative impact on a student's academic performance and quality of life, but it may also disturb family and institutional life ( 107 ). Therefore, long-term untreated depression, anxiety, or stress can have a negative influence on people's ability to operate and produce, posing a public health risk ( 113 ).
The current study makes various contributions to the existing literature on servant leadership. Firstly, it enriches the limited literature on the role of family and academic stress and their impact on students' depression levels. Although, a few studies have investigated stress and depression and its impact on Students' academic performance ( 14 , 114 ), however, their background i.e., family and institutions are largely ignored.
Secondly, it explains how the depression level impacts students' academic learning, specifically in the Asian developing countries region. Though a substantial body of empirical research has been produced in the last decade on the relationship between students' depression levels and its impact on their academic achievements, however, the studies conducted in the Pakistani context are scarce ( 111 , 115 ). Thus, this study adds further evidence to prior studies conducted in different cultural contexts and validates the assumption that family and academic stress are key sources depression and anxiety among students which can lead toward their low academic grades and their overall performance.
This argument is in line with our proposed theory in the current research i.e., cognitive appraisal theory which was presented in 1966 by psychologist Richard Lazarus. Lazarus's theory is called the appraisal theory of stress, or the transactional theory of stress because the way a person appraises the situation affects how they feel about it and consequently it's going to affect his overall quality of life. In line with the theory, it suggests that events are not good or bad, but the way we think about them is positive or negative, and therefore has an impact on our stress levels.
According to the findings of this study, high levels of depressive symptoms among college students should be brought to the attention of relevant departments. To prevent college student depression, relevant departments should improve the study and life environment for students, try to reduce the generation of negative life events, provide adequate social support for students, and improve their cognitive and coping capacities to improve their mental qualities.
Stress and depression, on the other hand, may be managed with good therapy, teacher direction, and family support. The outcomes of this study provide an opportunity for academic institutions to address students' psychological well-being and requirements. Emotional well-being support services for students at Pakistan's higher education institutions are lacking in many of these institutions, which place a low priority on the psychological requirements of these students. As a result, initiatives that consistently monitor and enhance kids' mental health are critical. Furthermore, stress-reduction treatments such as biofeedback, yoga, life-skills training, mindfulness meditation, and psychotherapy have been demonstrated to be useful among students. Professionals in the sector would be able to adapt interventions for pupils by understanding the sources from many spheres.
Counseling clinics should be established at colleges to teach students about stress and sadness. Counselors should instill in pupils the importance of positive conduct and decision-making. The administration of the school should work to create a good and safe atmosphere. Furthermore, teachers should assume responsibility for assisting and guiding sad pupils, since this will aid in their learning and performance. Support from family members might also help you get through difficult times.
Furthermore, these findings support the importance of the home environment as a source of depression risk factors among university students, implying that family-based treatments and improvements are critical in reducing depression among university students.
Limitations and Future Research Implications
The current study has a few limitations. The researcher gathered data from the higher education level of university students studying in Islamabad and Rawalpindi institutions. In the future, researchers are required to widen their region and gather information from other cities of Pakistan, for instance, Lahore, Karachi, etc. Another weakness of the study is that it is cross-sectional in nature. We need to do longitudinal research in the future to authoritatively assert the cause-and-effect link between academic and familial stress and their effects on students' academic performance since cross-sectional studies cannot establish significant cause and effect relationships. Finally, the study's relatively small sample size is a significant weakness. Due to time and budget constraints, it appears that the capacity to perform in-depth research of all firms in Pakistan's pharmaceutical business has been limited. Even though the findings are substantial and meaningful, the small sample size is predicted to limit generalizability and statistical power. This problem can be properly solved by increasing the size of the sample by the researchers, in future researches.
Data Availability Statement
Ethical review and approval was not required for the study on human participants in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. Written informed consent for participation was not required for this study in accordance with the national legislation and the institutional requirements.
All authors contributed to conceptualization, formal analysis, investigation, methodology, writing and editing of the original draft, and read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This work was funded by the 2020 Heilongjiang Province Philosophy and Social Science Research Planning Project on Civic and Political Science in Universities (Grant No. 20SZB01). This work is supported by the Scientific Grant Agency of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Sport of the Slovak Republic and the Slovak Academy Sciences as part of the research project VEGA 1/0797/20: Quantification of Environmental Burden Impacts of the Slovak Regions on Health, Social and Economic System of the Slovak Republic.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.
Authors would like to thank all persons who directly or indirectly participated in the completion of this manuscript.
Academic Stress and its Sources Among University Students
Department of Psychology, Christ University, Bengaluru – 560 029, India.
Corresponding Author E-mail: [email protected]
DOI : https://dx.doi.org/10.13005/bpj/1404
Stress has become part of students’ academic life due to the various internal and external expectations placed upon their shoulders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the problems associated with academic stress as transitions occur at an individual and social level. It therefore, becomes imperative to understand the sources and impact of academic stress in order to derive adequate and efficient intervention strategies. The study employed a quantitative research design where participants were screened using Academic Stress Scale (Rajendran& Kaliappan,1991 from four streams namely, commerce, management, humanities, and basic sciences. The five dimensions of sources such as personal inadequacy, fear of failure, interpersonal difficulties with teachers, teacher pupil relationship and inadequate study facilities were further analysed and gender differences were also obtained. Understanding the sources of stress would facilitate the development of effective counselling modules and intervention strategies by school psychologists and counsellors in order to help students alleviate stress.
Academic Stress; Academic Anxiety; Adolescents; Stressors; Sources of Stress
For the longest time, people assumed that the student population was the least affected by any sort of stress or problems. Stress is now understood as a lifestyle crisis(Masih & Gulrez, 2006) affecting any individual regardless of their developmental stage(Banerjee & Chatterjee, 2016). The only task students were expected to undertake was to study and studying was never perceived as stressful. What proved to be stressful was the expectations parents had for their children, which in turn grew into larger burdens that these children could not carry anymore. According to the statistics published by National Crime Records Bureau, there is one student every hour that commits suicide(Saha,2017). The bureau registered 1.8% students who committed suicide due to failing in examinations and an 80% rise in suicide rates during a one-year time frame. A 2012 Lancet report also quoted that the 15-29 age group bracket in India has the highest rate of suicide in the world (as cited in “India has the Highest Suicide Rate”, n.d.) and these numbers show no sign of dropping.
Academic stress has been identified as the primary cause of these alarming figures.Lee & Larson (2000) explain this stress as an interaction between environmental stressors, student’s appraisal and reactions for the same. It has now become a grave reality that is termed as a “career stopper” (Kadapatti & Vijayalaxmi, 2012). It therefore,becomes a significant cause of concern as it is symptomatic of rising mental health concerns in India (Nadamuri & Ch,2011).
Depression, anxiety, behavioural problems, irritability, etc. are few of the many problems reported in students with high academic stress(Deb, Strodl& Sun, 2015;Verma, Sharma & Larson, 2002).Incidences of depression were also found among stressful adolescents as it is linked with inability to concentrate, fear of failure, negative evaluation of future, etc. (Busari, 2012).Adolescents were also reported to be indulging in various risky behaviours such as increased consumption of alcohol and drugs, unprotected sexual activities, physical inactivity, poor eating and sleeping patterns (American College Health Association, 2009; Bennet & Holloway, 2014; King, Vidourek& Singh, 2014). The pressure these students face to perform is so severe resulting in five-fold increase in suicide attempts.
It becomes imperative to also understand that low stress does not necessarily ascertain that students will perform better, but in fact under these circumstances, they would perceive the task as unchallenging and may also get easily bored (Uchil, 2017). Though certain levels of stress push students towards optimum performance, when it is not managed efficiently due to inadequate resources to cope with the stress, it can have dismal consequences for the student as well as the institution.
The stress response elicited by every individual is identical regardless of the trigger causing. For example, marital stress, exam anxiety, work stress, etc. would elicit identical physiological responses from the body. This happens primarily due to the adreno-medullary system, which is part of the sympathetic division of our nervous system and the adrenocortical axis (Bourne & Yaroush, 2003) resulting in the “fight or flight” reaction. Some of the physiological changes that can be observed in the body are changes in heart rate(HR), blood pressure (BP), respiratory rate, increased blood flow towards skeletal muscles, etc.
While the stress response may be identical, the sources of stress reported by individuals vary. These differences would be seen in the causes, sources and consequences of stressors. Some of the common stressors reported in an academic setting include excessive assignments, poor time management and social skills, peer competition, etc. (Fairbrother & Warn, 2003). These results are consistent with studies conducted in India as well as reported by Sreeramareddy, Shankar, Binu, Mukopadhyay, Ray & Menezes (2007).
Other individual specific factors include problems in financial management, changes in living atmosphere, difficulties managing personal and academic life, etc. (Byron, Brun & Ivers, 2008; Chernomas & Shapiro, 2013; Goff, 2011; Jimenez, Navia-Osorio & Diaz, 2010; Moscaritolo, 2009).
The educational system also plays an enabling role subsequently leading to increased stress levels experienced by students. Some of the sources include overcrowded lecture halls, semester grading system, inadequate resources and facilities (Awing& Agolla, 2008), vastness of syllabus (Agrawal &Chahar, 2007; Sreeramareddy et al., 2007), long hours and expectations of rote learning (Deb et al., 2015). Parents and institutions relentlessly instill the fear of failure which affects their self-esteem and confidence. Ang & Huan (2006) reported increased expectations as one of the factors responsible for increased stress levels.
Thus, as the sources of stress vary despite identical stress responses elicited by the body, understanding the former will help develop tailor made interventions targeted to reduce stress levels of students, which will in turn contribute towards holistic well-being of the individual.
The main objective of the study was to find if there exists academic stress among students. Further, this study was also conducted to understand if there gender wise and stream wise differences in academic stress reported by the participants. Differences in gender and stream were also noted in the different dimensions or sources of stress as assessed by the Academic Stress Scale. It was hypothesized that there exists significant gender differences and stream wise differences in academic stress. It was also hypothesized that the sources of stress will also significantly vary among gender and the different streams.
Participants for the study were selected from a general pool of students using random sampling technique where the classes were chosen based on names picked out from a fish bowl. Informed consent form and demographic profile sheet were given to all the participants and the objectives of the study were explained. Academic Stress Scale developed by Rajendran and Kaliappan(1991) was used to understand the sources of stress. This questionnaire was selected on the basis of previous results obtained during the pilot study of this project. It measures the sources of stress primarily on four dimensions namely, personal inadequacy, fear of failure, teacher pupil relationship, interpersonal difficulties, and inadequate study facilities. The approximate administration time was around 25 minutes. Incomplete forms and questionnaire were not included in the study. Results were then analyzed using SPSS v.21.
Results and Discussion
The main objectives of the study were to understand the level of academic stress faced by students and the different sources that contributed to the same. Gender differences and stream wise differences in total academic stress were also analysed. Data was collected from four academic streams namely, commerce, humanities, science, and management. The students who responded to the questionnaire were currently in their final year of undergraduate programme. The obtained data was subjected to appropriate statistical analysis and the results are discussed in this session.
Table 1: Showing mean and standard deviation of sample on academic stress
The total number of participants who were subjected to the analysis procedures were 336. The mean of the sample on the total academic stress score was 53.46(SD=25.70) as reflected in table 1. Using the mean as cut-off for preliminary analysis and interpretation, it was found that 48.80% of students fall under the category of having average to high stress levels.
Table 2: Showing results of independent samples t test of the two groups, males and females
The second major objective was to find if there are any significant gender differences in the total academic score obtained by the participants. The total number of male and females were 162 and 174 with a mean score of 53.01(SD=26.75) and 53.87(SD=24.75) respectively. According to the independent samples t- test results indicated in table 2, there exists no significant difference in total academic stress experienced by males and females.
To understand if there are significant differences in dimensions of academic stress experienced by males and females, the data was subjected to multivariate test and the results are presented in table 3.
Tests of Between Subjects Effects
The results presented in table 3.a. and 3.b. indicate that the scores obtained on the dimensions of academic stress differed significantly (.954, p<0.05) across the two groups, males and females. Further analysis also revealed that it was the fear of failure dimension that differed significantly F=5.207, p<0.05, with females reported to have higher scores (Mean=12.29, SD=7.39) than males (Mean=10.53, SD=6.70).
The third major objective was to find whether there exist significant stream wise differences in academic stress. The data was subjected to ANOVA test and results are presented in table 4.
Descriptive statistics of academic stress score across different streams
Post-hoc analysis Tukey test for Multiple comparisons across different streams
It can be observed from table 4.a., 4.b., and 4.c. that there was a significant difference in academic stress F=4.926, p<0.05 across the four streams with the Commerce stream reporting the highest stress (Mean=61.24, SD=21.34) in comparison to the Management stream (Mean=57.64, SD=24.27) and Science stream(Mean=49.26, SD=28.57). It can be seen that the Humanities stream has reported the least academic stress (Mean=47.97, SD=25.28) in comparison to the others.
Post-hoc analysis was also conducted to understand which of the streams significantly varied in total academic stress in comparison with the others. Results indicate that the Humanities stream significantly differed in stress scores between Commerce and Management, p<0.05. There were no significant differences found in stress score reported by Humanities stream and Science Stream. Results indicated significant difference in stress scores between Commerce stream and Science stream as well, p<0.05.
To understand if there are stream differences in the dimensions of stress, the data was subjected to multivariate tests and the results are presented in table 5.
Results presented in table 5.a. and 5.b. indicate that there were significant stream differences (Value=4.084, p<0.1)across the different dimensions of stress as assessed by the questionnaire. Further analysis indicate that the significant differences were shown in the dimensions personal inadequacy, interpersonal difficulties, teacher pupil relationship and inadequate study facilities. Fear of failure was the only dimension that did not show any significant difference across streams which is in contrast to the gender wise differences where it was observed that fear of failure was the only significant dimension that varied with respect to gender.
Post-hoc analysis of differences in dimension of academic stress across different streams
Results presented in table 5.c. denote that there exist significant significant stream wise differences in the different dimensions of academic stress. The Humanities stream(Mean=10.92, SD=6.51) differed significantly on the dimension personal inadequacy with Commerce stream(Mean=14.02, SD=5.71), interpersonal difficulties(Mean=7.62, SD=5.30) with Management stream(Mean=10.43, SD=5.42), teacher pupil relationship(Mean=10.39, SD=6.56) with Management stream(Mean=13.30, SD=6.06) and inadequate study facilities (Mean=8.08, SD=5.18) with Commerce (Mean=11.44, SD=4.64) and Management streams (Mean=11.03, SD=6.06), p<0.05.
The Commerce stream differed significantly on the dimension interpersonal difficulties (Mean=9.76, SD=4.97) with Science stream (Mean=6.47, SD=5.46) and teacher pupil relationship (Mean=12.58, SD=5.36) with Science stream(Mean=9.67, SD=6.17), p<0.05.
Along with significant differences in dimensions with Humanities stream, the Management stream differed significantly in the dimension interpersonal difficulties (Mean=10.43, SD=5.42) with Science stream (Mean=6.47, SD=5.46) and teacher pupil relationship (Mean= 13.30, SD=6.06) with Science stream (Mean=9.67, SD=6.17), p<0.05.
Prevalence of academic stress is not a stream specific situation. High stress levels were reported in medical and engineering students highlighting the need for medical attention and interventions (Behere, Yadav & Behere, 2011).
Academic stress has become a pervasive problem across countries, cultures, and ethnic groups (Wong, Wong & Scott, 2006). The present study brought into light that academic stress still continues to be a devastating problem affecting a student’s mental health and well-being. Stream wise differences in the experience of stress were also highlighted. Management of the condition thus becomes fundamental at every level namely, personal, social and institutional. Techniques like biofeedback, yoga, life-skills training, mindfulness meditation, psychotherapy have been found to be effective in reducing stress among students Understanding the source from the different spheres will enable professionals in the field to tailor-make intervention for students combining the most effective strategies. Improving the holistic well-being of the student would eventually be productive not only the individual but, for the overall productivity of the institutions as well.
This study was supported by the Centre for Research (projects), Christ University, Bangalore – 560 029, India.
Conflict of Interest
There is no conflict of interest
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