College Student Stress: Who Is Resilient? Who Is Vulnerable?

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This study explored and described the pervasive stress on college campuses. It focused on what it is that distinguished those students who did and those who did not develop physical, psychological and/or academic sequelae in response to exposure to stressors during their college experience. A comprehensive model of stress and coping, based on a review of the literature, was presented. The model was affirmed by the data analysis. To conduct the research, 672 participants were randomly selected from those attending a Christian liberal-arts college in south central Pennsylvania. Of those who were selected and participated, 317 completed usable questionnaires. Data collection occurred over a one week period, using a self-report questionnaire. Subjects were categorized into Resilient (n = 43, 13.6%), Average (n = 96, 30.3%) and Vulnerable (n = 178, 56.1%) groups prior to data analysis. Incorporated into the 192 item questionnaire was the Brief Personal Survey (Webb, 1988). It contains 88 items on nine subscales: denial, health distress, pressure-overload, anger-frustration, anxiety, depression, social support, philosophical-spiritual resources and coping confidence. Subjects also indicated their magnitude of stress on 78 items. The remaining items focused on demographics. The data showed that Resilient subjects experienced less pressure-overload, anger-frustration, anxiety and depression than either Average or Vulnerable groups. Males and females were not found to differ with regard to pressure-overload, anger-frustration or depression. Females experienced higher levels of anxiety, stressor magnitude, health distress, social support and philosophical-spiritual resources. Correlations between stressors were also reported, as were the rankings of stressors. These were presented on the basis of variables such as gender, academic year and academic major. Because of the nature of the stressors identified, this study has shown the mutual importance of the curricular and cocurricular in the lives of college students. The findings of this research pointed out the clear and urgent need for various types of prevention and intervention programs. These were discussed from the perspective of institutional concerns, for curricular and cocurricular faculty, as well as for health educators.