Researchers at both Columbia University and the University of San Diego conducted a study to determine how stress negatively affects academic performance and enrollment. They were inspired by the fact that nearly 25% of students polled in the National College Health Assessment said that they experienced poor grades or unnrolled from classes as a result of stress.
“The important part that both institutions found is that it’s such an incredibly complex issue,” said Michael P. McNeil, director of health promotion at Columbia University. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be an answer. There’s going to be a series of things we do to address this.”
Each university examined different factors in their participants. Mary Baker, who was a researcher at San Diego at the time, said that much of the stress reported by her group was a result of socioeconomic status. Nearly all of the students surveyed at the beginning of the project in 2007 were white, with only 2% being black. This segment of the population reported being stressed out by racial slurs and damage to their personal belongings. The gay and lesbian group also reported heightened stress due to discrimination. Heterosexual students who held jobs were more likely to experience stress from their friends, families, and poor time management.
Overall, 75 percent of students at Columbia reported experiencing stress, and over one third of those said it had a negative impact on their academic abilities. Surprisingly, the students reported that some of the biggest stressors they experienced were “university administrative processes,” cramped housing, and the lack of healthy food choices at the universities. McNeil also notes that although positive coping techniques, such as displaying positive messages on student agendas, have been implemented, very few of the students surveyed listed counseling or therapy as a method of coping. The researchers believe that the stigma of mental impairment prevents students from seeking help through therapy.
Source: Grasgreen, Allie. (2011). Student Stress: Whose Is Worst? Inside Higher Ed: insidehighered.com/news/2011/06/17/student_stress_factors_and_effects_presented_at_acha_meeting_of_college_health_educators
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