The purposes of this study involved assessing perceived levels of stress and detecting sources of stress among college students. It also looked for ways college students commonly relax, unwind, cope or deal with individual stress and the effectiveness of such methods to reduce perceived stress levels.
Results were obtained from a survey of 559 students enrolled in sections of a Healthful Living course at a Midwestern university. The subjects for this study were predominantly white and black males and females between the ages of 18-23. The representation of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors was fairly even, with the largest proportion of subjects being sophomores.
Subjects responded to a questionnaire that gathered information regarding perceived levels of stress, sources of stress and type and frequency of preferred methods of dealing with individual stress. The instruments used to gather this data included the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), The Inventory of College Students' Recent Life Experiences (ICSRLE) and The Relaxation Frequency Inventory (RFI).
The main stressors that these students commonly experience involve their academic life. These stressors included many responsibilities, struggling to meet academic standards, time and money management worries, and concerns over grades. As the number and intensity of these hassles go up, so do individual levels of stress.
Students of this survey use social activities, watching television, leisure activities and exercise more than other methods for managing stress. They tended to use methods that are specifically designed to reduce stress less often than they used other activities that had, as a byproduct, relaxation or management of stress. The subsequent analysis of the effectiveness of stress managing activities suggested that the most commonly used methods that the students use to manage stress are not particularly effective at doing so.
Women reported higher levels of stress than men, although at the same time, they did not report higher scores on the hassles scale. One age group, 24-25 year old students, reported higher hassles scores as well as greater amounts of time using the dysfunctional stress managing activities to manage their stress.