Facing College? Female students much more stressed than their male counterparts

Newswise – University life can be very demanding, often forcing students to work and function under pressure. School load, the classroom environment, interaction with faculty, illness, and emotional concerns outside of the classroom also add to their stress levels. Students who lack the appropriate stress management skills may find it difficult to balance these responsibilities.

According to the American College of Health Association’s Spring 2019 Health Assessment, 34.2% of undergraduates indicated that the main barrier to learning was stress, with 45.3% having greater than normal stress. mean. This stressful environment made college students vulnerable to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies. Although studies have measured academic performance, research on coping skills is scarce.

Researchers from Atlantic University of Florida and collaborators examined stress, coping mechanisms, and gender differences in undergraduate students. They measured both psychological perception of stress and assessed how men and women cope with stress. As they assumed, the differences are huge.

The results of the study, published in PLOS ONE, showed that overall, female undergraduates were significantly more stressed than their male counterparts – the majority experiencing average to higher stress levels than men. Among the main dimensions of coping, women used emotion-based approaches more than men. There was a significant difference between the sexes in the approval of four coping strategies: self-distraction, emotional support, instrumental support and evacuation, more than men. No gender differences in problem-based or avoidant coping strategies were found.

Women showed significant differences compared to men with self-distraction, a coping strategy that can provide immediate relief. People who use this strategy to manage their stress levels do so because of the lack of another positive coping method. Instrumental support was another coping method with higher emotional support used by the women in the study. Seen as a positive support mechanism, instrumental support relates to subjective well-being such as listening to or giving tangible help to another person. Women also used ventilation as another coping strategy. This style allows an individual to express their anger and can lead to cathartic relief from the immediate effects of stressful situations. Ventilation is considered passive or ineffective in dealing with stress and can, in fact, increase stress levels.

“When individuals, like the female students in our study, find themselves in undesirable and stressful situations, they may seek to blame internal or external sources,” said B. Sue Graves, Ed.D., principal author and associate professor at Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “We found that the male students in our study looked for much lower levels of support because they may either lack social networking or may not have developed these skills. Thus, gender was the important element of this study, which should be taken into account when it comes to reducing stress in students. “

The results of the study highlight how higher education institutions should seriously consider the different needs of students to enable them to separately develop coping skills throughout their lives and to deal with stressful situations.

“Students may need educational interventions to develop effective and healthy coping strategies that will last a lifetime. Our study provides relevant, more gender-specific stress reduction information, ”said Graves. “Perhaps more effective stress management and coping sessions could be more important in class, especially at the freshman and / or sophomore level. This evidence can also be used to apply to the design of future studies and possible directions in undergraduate students, again, gender specific. Professors and other university officials may wish to highlight and understand these various factors to protect the well-being of students in their classrooms.

The co-authors of the study are Michael E. Hall, Ph.D., associate professor; and Carolyn Dias-Karch, both in the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, FAU; Michael H. Haischer, MS, Center for Athletic and Human Performance Research and Exercise Science Program, Department of Physiotherapy, College of Health Sciences, Marquette University; and Christine Apter, FAU Campus Recreation Department.

– FAU –

About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened in 1964 as Florida’s fifth public university. Today, the University welcomes more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at six campuses located along the Southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research spending and surpassed its peers in student success rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional success gaps disappear. FAU is named as a Hispanic-focused institution, ranked among the top public universities by US News & World Report, and a high-research institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information visit www.fau.edu.

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