Academic Stress, Anxiety and Depression Among College Students | Stress (Biology) | Self-Improvement

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An Article about Academic Stress
  International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 5, No. 1 (2013), pp. 135-143 ISSN 2248-9010 (Online), ISSN 2250-0715 (Print) Academic Stress, Anxiety and Depression among College Students- A Brief Review Narasappa Kumaraswamy School of Medicine, University Malaysia Sabah Jalan University, Kotakinabalu- 8400   Sabah, Malaysia E-mail:   (Received: 15-11-12 / Accepted: 18-12-12) Abstract Academic stress, anxiety and depression among college students are a cause of concern. Every nation invests lot of money on education. However research survey on college students reports at any given time there will be 10 to 20 % of student population suffering from psychological problems (Stress, Anxiety & Depression). This paper briefly describes the research carried out in the last 3 decades especially regarding stress, anxiety & depression. It focuses stress among college students, nature of psychiatric morbidity, emotional problems and adjustment, psychological problems of college students. Emphasising how counselling will help students with emotional problems and also suggested preventive measures to be taken by colleges such as setting up student counselling centres, create awareness among college students in seeking help with counselling centres. It is also suggested to have mentor mentee programme compulsorily on all colleges. A student health committee should be formed in each college with mental health professionals as its members. There should be regular seminar & workshop for teachers & college students on various issues of psychological problems and its coping mechanisms. Keywords:  Anxiety, Depression, Stress, college students, preventive measures.   Introduction: Student represents the society’s investment for future. Their mental health and wellbeing are important not only in its own right but also as a factor contributing to the larger society’s well being. Psychological problems among student population varies from 2% to as high as 50%.At any given time if one randomly examines the student wellbeing one can find that every 10 students, one will have emotional conflicts severe enough to merit professional help(Farnsworth, 1997)Anxiety and Depression are common mental health problems among student population. At any given time 25% of student population report symptoms of Depression. (Beck and Young 1978). College students frequently have more complex problems today than they did over decade ago common stressors in college include greater academic demands, being on your own in a new environment, changes in family relations, changes in social life, exposure to new people ideas and temptations.  Narasappa Kumaraswamy   136 Some of the salient problems specific to college students are, time pressure, fear of failure, struggle to establish identity, pressure of academic excellence and tough competence. Emotional problems such as Feel inferior to others, not able to think properly, worrying too much, feel life is not worth living. Feel anxious without any apparent reason. What is Stressful to Under Graduates? Student reacts to college in a variety of ways. For some students college is stressful because it is an abrupt change from high school. For others separation from home is a source of stress. Although some source of stress is necessary for personal growth to occur, the amount of stress can overwhelm a student and affect the ability to cope. Another source of stress is the difficulty of achieving social intimacy .Fear academic failure is a definite Stressor (Spiel Berger CD, 1983, Kendall et al. 1965) Kumarswamy (1989) also found that stress was more in Second year medical students and this may be due to greater fear of not attaining their goal of being a doctor.   Several studies reported Medical students experience more stress. A major stressor for first year medical students is the amount & complexity of material to be learned. Student feels academic pressure because all their class mates were superior college students. Fatigue is often cited as a stressor in second year, and many researchers describe a hypochondrical phenomenon by which medical students imagine they have the disease they are studying. In the third year medical students begin patient care. Acceptance of death and dying emerges as a key issue in coping with stress.   A brief review has been made by looking in to the artiles published on problems of college students. The term “Stress” refers to the psychological state which derives from the person’s appraisal of the success with which he or she can adjust to the demands of the society environment. When students appraise their education as challenge, stress can bring them a sense of competence and an increased capacity to learn, when education is seen as threat, however, stress can elicit feelings of helplessness and a foreboding sense of loss (Lazarus, 1966). The Yerker-Dodson Law (1908) Postulates that individual under low and high stress learn the least and those under moderate stress learn the most. Emotional and psychological problems encountered by student include: ã   anxieties about aspects of study including exams and presentations ã   general stress and anxiety ã   depression ã   relationship difficulties ã   eating problems ã   bereavements and parental separations ã   loneliness and homesickness ã   lack of self-confidence or low self esteem ã   managing transitions ã   making difficult decisions ã   traumatic experiences including rape, assault and abuse ã   difficulties with alcohol or drugs ã   issues around sex and sexuality ã   self-injury ã   suicidal thoughts  International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2013), 135-143  137 ã   anger management ã   Worries about appearance. A cross institutional study found stress the top of health problem which worried students most, followed by body image, AIDS, physical fitness and cancer (Delene & Brogowich, 1990). The Stanford Survey found psychological distress to be extremely common among the students. 1 out of 3 described themselves as anxious or tense. As far as depression is concerned, 1 in 5 described themselves as “tired without any apparent reason”. 43 percent said sometimes felt “so depressed it is hard for them to get going” and 16 percent reported feeling that life is not worth living (Martinez & Fabiano, 1992). Taking into considerations of several articles published on the psychological distress of college students, one can safely conclude that 20 to 25 percentage of student population worldwide suffering from psychological distress Stress is any situation that evokes negative thoughts and feelings in a person. Stressful events can be appraised by individual as “Challenging” or “threatening” (Lazarus, 1966). Nature of Psychiatric Morbidity/Psychological Problem among Students: Several studies have been conducted and reported on psychiatric morbidity/psychological problem among student population. Only a selected few are reported here which have a direct bearing upon problems of students. The general health questionnaire (GHQ) is being often used to screen students for the different types of neurotic problems. One such study is reported by Rao (1978). He administered GHQ (Goldberg 1972) on 428 students with in the age range of 13-16 years. 89 among them scored 13 or above and 84 were identified as neurotic cases. The study indicated that 19.62% presented definite neurotic problem (18.8% boys and 22.8% girls) .of these cases 47 presented with depression, 21 presented with Anxiety, 8 had psychogenic headache and 7 had problem of inability to concentrate, giddiness, vague aches and pains. One student was found to have schizophrenia. Each of the above 89 students were independently examined in a clinical interview by a psychiatrist and his result tallied with the GHQ split up on various clinical categories. A cross sectional epidemiological study of mental morbidity among 1160 psot graduate and research students was carried by Chandrashekar et al (1980). Goldberg’s 60 item General Health Questionnaire was used as screening tool, and a person scorning 12 and above was morbidity and selected socio demographic, motivational psychological variables: certain life experiences in the campus were studied. Results showed that factors like sex. age. Language, activities, educational status of the parents, birth order and parental loss or separation did not have any significant relationship with the morbidity rate. Low family income , student’ attitude towards opting for a particular course, who described their home as unhappy positively correlated with mental morbidity. The dissatisfaction arising from living arrangements, poor participation in extracurricular activities, poor social relationships, poor staff-contact are all significantly related to high mental morbidity. A study of life events , life strains and coping behavior’s were compared In psychologically ‘distressed ‘ and ‘non-distressed’ college students by zeena et al (1990).The study was  Narasappa Kumaraswamy   138 conducted on undergraduates enrolled in 4 co-educational day colleges in Bangalore city (N=451). They were given socio-demographic data sheet. Life events inventory, life strains inventory, the copy check list and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). GHQ was used as a screening test to divide the sample into psychologically distressed and no distressed. 21.36% of the total fell in the distressed group. Students who obtained high score on the GHQ experienced a significantly greater number of negative life events and strains and more subjective distress compared to ‘non distressed’ In a review of urban health center services in Lucknow, Thackore et al (1971) found that 37.5% of the total population attending the center were students. Thackore et al, (1971) report certain characteristics of a section of university student population. This study had a sample consisting of 58 medical students who attended psychiatric consultation during the period of 4 academic years commencing from 1966. Each student underwent detailed psychiatric of 4 academic years commencing from 1966. Each student underwent detailed psychiatric and medical evaluation. On the basis of results, the prevalence rate of psychiatric morbidity among this population was 1%. Over 85% of them were average or above average in intelligence and majority of them suffered from anxiety and depression. Wig et al” (1969) found that, of the 68 students who were referred for student counseling center, 50% reported difficulty in concentration. Other problem found were ‘frequent sad mood’ (24.4%) getting nervous (23.5%) Head ache (23.5%) inferiority feelings and difficulty in memory (22.4%). Among these students’ 26 were diagnosed as case of Anxiety Neurosis. Chaudhary (1979) in an attempts to categories the psychological problem under various areas, studied 100 university students attending students counseling center. The sole method of assessment was clinical interview. The results showed that 57% of them presented somatic complaints of one type or another problem of psychosomatic nature. Only 3% came with purely physical complaints. The categories adopted by him were academic adjustment, emotional adjustment, sexual adjustment and miscellaneous. Analysis of results showed problem of predominant emotional adjustment, sexual adjustment.28 students presented acute psychological problem requiring treatment. The rest 78% were handled by counseling. Emotional Problem and Adjustment Rarely, studies have been reported on 2 comparable groups. One emotionally disturbed and the other emotionally adjusted are tried on different test to come to certain important inferences. One such study was carried out by Krishnan and Sathyendra (1979), who took a group of disturbed boys and comparable group of 67 adjusted boys ranging in age of 14 to 18 years. The 58 emotionally disturbed boys were expressly chosen from among those who had sought counseling because of their emotional problem. The group of 67 adjusted boys was drawn from 200 students at random. Both the group was matched in terms of mean chorological age, education and place of residence. The following test were administered to both the groups: (1) Eysenck Personality inventory : (2) Revised comprehensive test of anxiety (3)security insecurity inventory.(4)sentence completion test: (5) choice Dilemma Questionnaire and(6) Bells adjustment inventory. Individual testing was done with emotionally maladjusted person and group procedures were adapted with the matched normal group. The results clearly indicated that the emotionally disturbed groups were found to be more neurotic, anxious and insecure and poorly adjusted in Home Health Social and Emotional area. Similar conclusions were drawn from another study by Nataraj (1968) using Bells’ adjustment inventory on emotionally adjusted and emotionally mal adjusted adolescent college girls.
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