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2010



Jun 29, 2012

Student's Study Reveals Time Management Struggles Produce Stress

By Allison Gould ('10), JMU Public Affairs

Britz was particularly interested in the correlation between stress and nutrition. Over 70 percent of the students involved in the study considered their diets healthy, although very few of the students ate breakfast, which is considered necessary for a balanced diet.

"I guess one interesting thing is that perceived health and actual health are a little different," Britz said.

Stress in college and time management go hand in hand, according to a recent study by a JMU senior. Jacqueline Britz, an anthropology major who is in the pre-med concentration, surveyed a 2008 class of freshmen to determine their causes, and symptoms, of stress.

Her findings—which will be featured in the James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal, to be published on April 14—show that the main causes of stress were academics and poor time management, and that the main symptoms of stress were loss of sleep and unhealthy eating habits.

Britz began researching stress at college in spring 2008, after attending a presentation on stress management and health by Dr. Eric Pappas, an associate professor of integrated science and technology.

"I told Dr. Pappas that I was interested in this area and he really helped me pick a focus for my research," Britz said. "It was just kind of an opportunity to work on something I am interested in."

After extensive background research on the causes of college stress, Britz decided to focus on the symptoms.

"I did not want to repeat research that's already been done before, so I looked at related research on college stress and health in the last 10 years and tried to find correlations between them."

Britz and Pappas developed survey questions that would show correlations between the causes of stress and how students responded to stress. There were 15 questions in the survey. Students were asked to rate their answers about specific symptoms of stress, such as increased anxiety, conflict in relationships, changes in grades, sleep loss, impaired health, partying, weight fluctuation and mood changes.

In fall 2008, Britz tested the questions on a small sample of students. Based on student feedback, she made corrections, then gave the questions to one of Pappas's general education classes of 124 freshmen.

"Dr. Pappas chose this class because there was such a broad variety of majors," Britz said. "So there was not really a bias for just pre-med kids or just psychology or that kind of thing."

In reviewing the survey results, Britz and Pappas looked for the main causes of stress. They found that time management and academics were to blame. In observing those factors, Britz discovered a correlation between higher levels of stress and a tendency toward sleep loss and poor diet.

Britz was particularly interested in the correlation between stress and nutrition. Over 70 percent of the students involved in the study considered their diets healthy, although very few of the students ate breakfast, which is considered necessary for a balanced diet.

"I guess one interesting thing is that perceived health and actual health are a little different," Britz said.

Academics was determined to be a main cause of stress. But since students cannot always decrease their academic load, Britz suggests they could benefit from a time management class so they can learn to really budget their time.

Britz hopes her study will inspire further research on the subject. She suggests that a long-term study on a sample of students over their college careers would enhance the depth of data, showing more causes and more symptoms of stress.


Published March 2010








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