Top stressors on campus include academics, lack of sleep, study finds

In this file photo, a stressed student in the library studies in Homer Babbidge library. A recent study by the student activities department shows that academics are one of the top two stresses in student leaders. (File photo/The Daily Campus)

Results from a survey of thousands of student leaders given by the department of student activities showed most students at the University of Connecticut view academic responsibilities as the number one source of stress, followed by lack of sleep.

The study targeted students at UConn who are resident assistants or leaders of campus organizations and community outreach.  

Christine Wilson, director of student activities, is the principal investigator.

We did divide students by demographics—men, women, different races and ethnicities—and those top sources of stress were the same across these groups, which is important
— Christine Wilson, director of student activities

The research aims to "better understand the stresses experienced by student leaders on our campus,” said Wilson in the email. “There is research out there on student leaders, but we wanted to talk about our students [at the University of Connecticut] specifically."

This is the third year thousands of students were surveyed and Wilson said her office has been studying the stress of students for the last six years.

The survey began by asking participants basic demographic information such as their gender, academic standing, ethnicity and age.

“We did divide students by demographics—men, women, different races and ethnicities—and those top sources of stress were the same across these groups, which is important,” Wilson said.

“There’s 21 different sources of stress that we learned of from focus groups, interviews and also articles and research that talk about student stress in general.”

Wilson was not surprised the investigation found that the top two sources of stress student leaders reported were academic responsibilities and a lack of sleep. These results are consistent with the findings from the last two years.

The survey asked many questions focused on assessing the degree of stress student leaders may or may not feel and their attitudes toward this stress.

One question listed potential stress responses and asked participants to rate how likely they were to use each action. For example, one statement said “I discuss my feelings with someone [when dealing with stress].” Participants could answer by rating this statement from one to 10, one being “extremely uncharacteristic” of a participant and 10 being “extremely characteristic.”

The stress levels of college students are not just being researched here at UConn. In 2009, MTV and the Associated Press surveyed 2,200 college students to understand their levels of stress. Their study College Stress and Mental Health found that 85 percent of all students feel stressed on a daily basis.

The complete results of UConn’s study have not been quantified yet, but according to the study done by MTV and the AP, 70 percent of college students have never considered talking to a counselor about their stress.

UConn has a number of resources available to students who need help managing stress and their mental health. The Health Education Office offers programs on aromatherapy, mindfulness and breathing techniques. They also provide free MP3 audio downloads and relax packs with bubble wrap and other stress management toys. Student Health Services offers counseling, yoga and stress management workshops.

“Our bigger goal is to have other schools use the instrument so we can compare our students” Wilson said.

Wilson hopes to hold an open presentation during the Spring 2016 semester to communicate the survey results and engage with other universities in the discussion of student stress.


Brittany Cangelosi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at brittany.cangelosi@uconn.edu.