Stress tolerance: new challenges for millennial college students
Problem: College years have been deemed as one of the most stressful periods of a person's life (Hales, 2009). The millennial generation of college students are unique in characteristics, including the manner in which they handle stressors. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify lifestyle habits and coping strategies that may be significantly associated with high or low stress tolerance among millennial college students. Methods: An epidemiological cross-sectional study of randomly selected college students (N=246) completed the Stress Tolerance Questionnaire (STQ), which was comprised of checklists for stressors, symptoms, and coping strategies. Stress tolerance ratios (STRs) were calculated, and subjects divided into high or low stress tolerance groups. Statistical differences were determined by Chi-Square and Odds Ratio (95%CI). Results: Ten lifestyle/coping factors (out of 29) were significantly associated with high stress tolerance (HST): one was a protective factor (feeling supported) while the nine others put one at risk for low stress tolerance (cleaned apartment, prayed, called mom, used internet social network (among others) (p<0.05). Conclusions: Coping mechanisms and lifestyle habits currently employed by the millennial college students are not only ineffective for alleviating stress, but also putting these students at risk for low stress tolerance.
Life transitions, such as moving away from home and going to college, create valuable opportunities for growth, change, and individuating from one's family of origin (Hicks & Heastie, 2008). While college students emerge into adulthood, they are able to focus on developing autonomy, a purpose and their identity (Arnett, 2000). Such transitions may be deemed to be stressful. In fact, the college years have been considered one of the most stressful times in a person's life as well (Hales, 2009).
Stress is a major issue for college students as they cope with academic, social, and personal challenges (Hudd et al., 2000). College students are expected to carry a more difficult workload at a faster pace while adjusting to a new environment with little or no supervision (Missouri AHEAD, 2007). The inability to cope with stress has been shown to negatively impact health behaviors in college students, including alcohol abuse, smoking, and eating disorders (Oliver, Reed & Smith, 1998; Pritchard, Wilson, & Yamnitz, 2007; Economo, Hildebrandt, & Hyatt, 2008). Several studies have also shown a decrease in the mental health status of college students due to stress, which contribute to increase in rates of depression (Yorgason, Lonville, & Zitzman, 2008; Dyson & Renk, 2006; Benton et al., 2002) and lower self-esteem (Hudd et al., 2000).
Since stress is such a concern for the Millennial college student population, there is a real need to approach the topic in relation to stress tolerance. When faced with similar stressors, people do not react in the same manner. Some are able to handle the stress, while others have great difficulty. The variance in the ability to handle stress can be attributed to stress tolerance (Welle & Graf, 2011). What coping mechanisms do college-aged Millennials with high stress tolerance employ?
The Millennials, also known as generation...