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Research Proposal - An Examination of the Relationship Between Stress and Quality of Life Factors in College Students

An Examination of the Relationship Between Stress and Quality of Life Factors in College Students




Stress seems to be an especially common feature of college student life, particularly at highly competitive colleges and universities. As we begin a new century, college students worldwide are faced with increasing numbers of stressors. Sorting through, evaluating, and assimilating vast amounts of knowledge is particularly challenging to today's college students. To add to this dilemma, they have to cope with financial problems thus compelling them to work either fulltime or part-time to support themselves. However, dealing with these issue at the same time had been shown to create stress and affect the health of college students (Aysan, Hamarat, Simons, Steele and Thompson, 2002).

Common themes exist in the symptoms of stress. Among college students, it may result in depression, insomnia, loss of intimacy with friends and family (Arvay & Uhlemann, 1996). Health symptoms of stress arise after being confronted with an event that involved death, injury, or extreme threat resulting in intense feelings of fear or helplessness. When symptoms last less than one month, they are considered normal reactions to crisis situations (Figley, 1995, 1998). However, Figley (1995) suggests this cluster of symptoms becomes classified as a disorder, when experienced for more than 30 days following exposure to the traumatic event.

There is no doubt that for many students, university life can be a very stressful and traumatic experience. Using case studies as examples, Rana's (2000) which posited that the link between mental health and learning/study and the common difficulties experienced by students with academic work, some of the processes involved with learning and additionally the link between intellect and the ability to handle emotions can lead to stress. Add to this stress, Scott and Scott (2001) suggested that financial problems among students which compels them to work also adds to this problem. The researchers found that student debt did negatively impact on student well-being, with depression occurring in nearly one third of graduates who anticipated owing substantial amounts of money. Consistent with previous research, Surtees (2000) concluded that psychological distress amongst students was apparent, with usually one fifth of students reporting at least one problem which caused them substantial worry. Academic problems caused students greatest concern, closely followed by financial concerns and social/personal relationship problems.

This proposed study attempts to investigate the impact of stress on the quality of life of college students using five indicators from Flanagan’s scale: physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation. Quality of life shall be evaluated using the result of the stress questionnaire from the students. It is posited in the literature that the work environment can greatly contribute to stress. Moreover, the effect can be enhanced by school pressures. The effects of stress on five quality of life areas shall be tested. These factors stipulated in the student stress scale, shall be tested separately to evaluate its relationship with stress using a correlation path analysis.

Research Aims 

This proposed research attempts to achieve the following objectives:

1.                   to determine the stress levels of the college students using the College Chronic Life Stress Survey (CCLSS)

2.                   to determine the relationship between stress and quality of life of the college students

3.                   To analyze the factors affecting stress level of college students and its effect on their quality of life- physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation using a correlation path analysis


Statement of the Problem

            This proposed study seeks to investigate the effect of stress on the quality of life of the students in five areas: physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation. Consequently, this study shall evaluate the factors affecting the stress level of college students and how it affect their quality of life using a correlation path analysis.

            Specifically, the following questions shall be asked:  

1.                    What is the relationship of stress level on quality of life in terms of physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation?

2.                    What are the effects of stress level on quality of life in terms of physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation?

3.                    What are the result of the differences in the stress level of college students on the factors of quality of life?

4.                     How significant is the relationship between stress and quality of life?


Conceptual Framework

            This proposed study shall utilize the Student Attrition Model  proposed by Bean (1980, 1982) which explain the college persistence process. Bean's work builds upon process models of organizational turnover and models of attitude-behavior interactions. Bean and associates have argued that student attrition is analogous to turnover in work organizations and stress the importance of behavioral intentions (to stay or leave) as predictors of persistence behavior. In this context, the Student Attrition Model presumes that behavioral intentions are shaped by a process whereby beliefs shape attitudes, and attitudes, in turn, influence behavioral intents. Beliefs are presumed to be affected by a student's experiences with the different components of an institution (that is, institutional quality, courses, and friends). The Student Attrition Model also recognizes that factors external to the institution such as involvement in the workforce can play a major role in affecting both attitudes and decisions and student stress while the student is still attending college (Cabrera, Castaneda and Nora, 1993).



            This proposed study shall test the following null hypothesis:

  1. There is a significant relationship between stress and quality of life in terms of physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation


Significance of the Study

            This study shall guide college students on the factors affecting stress, the conditions where stress is severe and how to minimize the effects of stress on the quality of life of college students using a correlation path analysis.


Review of Related Literature

Unhealthy adaptation to stress by college students can take many forms, such as school maladjustment. For example, stressors at school may lead to reduced attention span and to diminished motivation to succeed academically (Printz, Shermis and Webb, 1999; Pryor-Brown & Cowen, 1989). Anxiety (Swearingen & Cohen, 1985a, 1985b), depression, and suicidal ideation (Cohen-Sandier, Berman, & King, 1982) are other reactions to stress. Moreover, some youths experience psychophysiological symptoms in response to chronic or severe levels of stress (Walker & Greene, 1987).

College students experience high stress at predictable times each semester due to academic commitments, work, financial pressures, and lack of time management skills (McKean, et al., 2000). When stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, it can affect both health and academic performance (Campbell & Svenson, 1992). University students often attempt to control and reduce their stress through avoidance, religious and social support, or positive reappraisal (Mattlin, Wethington, & Kessler, 1990; Blake & Vandiver, 1988). Leisure satisfaction and fitness activities act as stress buffers, providing a sense of purpose and competence for college students (Ragheb & McKinney, 1993). Student academic stress is also reduced and controlled through effective time management and study techniques (Brown, 1991). Macan (1990) found that students who perceived themselves in control of their time reported greater work and life satisfactions and fewer job-induced and somatic tensions.

The impact of stress on college life has been substantiated by a number of researchers (Chang, 1998; Kent, Gorenflo, Daniel, & Forney, 1993; and Nowack, 1991). Chang's (1998) research, for example, indicates that the amount of perceived stress among college students correlates with levels of depression and life satisfaction. Chang's findings indicate that the more stress students experience, the lower their levels of life satisfaction. Chang's research further found that the more optimistic the student, the greater the satisfaction with life.  

Using the same measures as Hamarat et al. (2001), the present investigation examined the relationships among perceived stress, coping resource availability, and satisfaction with life in young adults. Hamarat et al. (2001) assessed this relationship in North American participants, across three age groups, one of which was college students. Both separate and joint effects of perceived stress and coping resource availability upon life satisfaction were examined. It was hypothesized that the combination of coping resource availability and perceived stress would be better predictors of satisfaction with life than either variable would be alone.

Full-time employees who are also part-time students describe themselves as highly stressed, always trading off between work, family, and school and often lacking sufficient sleep. This comment certainly highlight the problem as individuals juggle the multiple roles of wage earner, family member, and part-time student. In addition, burnout is frequently mentioned as a concern (Shellenbarger, 1997). More important, they indicate that too many part-time students see their educational experience as an exercise in survival, rather than intended broader developmental process.



There are three kinds of research methods, correlational, experimental and descriptive (Walliman and Baiche, 2001). The correlational research refers to studies in which the purpose is to discover relationships between variables through the use of correlational statistics (r). The square of a correlation coefficient yields the explained variance (r-squared). A correlational relationship between two variables is “occasionally the result of an outside source, so we have to be careful and remember that correlation does not necessarily tell us about cause and effect” (Creswell, 1994; 23). If a strong relationship is found between two variables, using an experimental approach can test causality (Creswell, 1994)

There are several kinds of correlational research (Creswell, 1994). However, a path analysis was selected to be used in this study. Path analysis is used to determine which of a number of pathways connects one variable with another (Printz, Shermis and Webb, 1999). For instance, we know there is a relationship between stress and quality of life. Path analysis has been used to show that while there is a small path that "goes through" physiology, the predominate path connecting stress and life quality that goes through health behaviors (Shipley, 2002; LI, 1975). That is, stress affects physiological factors functions. And this research used correlational statistics to draw this conclusion.

The research described in this document is based fundamentally on quantitative research methods. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis. This allows investigation of important new issues and questions as they arise, and allows the investigators to drop unproductive areas of research from the original research plan. Moreover, the result of the study shall be compared and verified based on the existing literature on the subject.

This study basically intends to investigate the relationship between stress and the quality of life of college students. Specifically, it shall compare the level of stress and its subsequent effect on their quality of life in five areas: Physical and Material Well-being, Relations with other People, Social, Community, and Civic Activities, Personal Development and Fulfillment and Recreation. This study posits that stress affects these areas significantly on college students.

The primary source of data will come from a questionnaire and interviews conducted by the researcher. The questionnaire that will be used for the study shall consist of the College Chronic Life Stress Survey (CCLSS) which shall measure the stress level of the respondents while quality of life shall be measured using the instrument of Flanagan (1982), the Quality of Life Scale. These instruments will be utilized because of their proven reliability and validity. In this manner, the author need not test the instrument nor doubt the validity of the instruments used.

This study used the original Quality of Life Scale (QOLS) devised by Flanagan (1982) with 15 items. The instrument is scored by summing the items to make a total score. Subjects should be encouraged to fill out every item even if they are not currently engaged in it. (e.g. they can be satisfied even if they do not currently participate in organizations. Or they can be satisfied about not having children.) Missing data can be treated by entering the mean score for the item. The original QOLS made by Flanagan contained 15 items representing 5 conceptual domains of QOL: physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation (Appendix 2).

The Quality of Life Scale (QOLS), developed originally by John Flanagan in the 1970's, has been adapted for use in chronic illness groups and extended to other examinations of quality of life. Evidence for reliability and validity has been published over the years for both English and translations (Bowling, (1995; Hägg, Burckhardt, Fritzell, & Nordwall, 2003; Archenholtz, Burckhardt, & Segesten, 1999).

The secondary sources of data will come from published articles from medical, education and business journals, books and related studies on stress, health, work, and school.

For this research design, the researcher will gather data, collate published studies from different local and foreign universities and articles from health and college journals; and make a content analysis of the collected documentary and verbal material.  Afterwards, the researcher will summarize all the information, make a conclusion based on the null hypotheses posited and provide insightful recommendations on the dealing with stress and quality of life among college students. 


Respondents of the Study

The general population of the study shall be college students from the University. The survey shall consist of a cross-sectional survey of students (freshmen to senior) at the University. The sampling frame chosen was the University Registrars' directory of address files. The advantage of using this sampling frame was that it provided an up-to-date address list of students. Information was collected using a questionnaire. 


Data Analysis

Demographic characteristics of college students will be compared using chi-square analysis. Total scores in addition to scores on the nine categories of the student stress scale. Data will be analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software.



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