‘’ACADEMIC STRESS AND COPING STRATEGIES AMONG UNDERGRADUATES IN SELECTED TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN ADAMAWA STATE’’

‘’ACADEMIC STRESS AND COPING STRATEGIES AMONG UNDERGRADUATES IN SELECTED TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN ADAMAWA STATE’’

AUTHOR & AFFILIATION
FAREO DORCAS OLUREMI

                              Department of Educational Foundations, Adamawa State University, Mubi.

doi:10.33826/ijmras/v02i0907

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ABSTRACT

The study investigated academic stress and coping strategies among students in selected tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. The study adopted a descriptive survey design. The population consists of selected tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. A sample size of 300 undergraduates was selected through a stratified random sampling technique. An instrument titled ‘Academic Stress among Undergraduates Questionnaire’ was used to collect data from the respondents. The face and content validity of the instrument was established by an expert in Counseling Psychology in the Department of Science Education, Adamawa State University, Mubi. The reliability of the instrument was carried out using the test-retest reliability method. The first test was administered on 30 students, while the second test was administered on the same set of students after two weeks. The reliability coefficient was 0.82. The researcher and two research assistants administered the questionnaires and collected them on the spot. The collected data were analyzed using mean, t-test, and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA obtained. Four research questions and two hypotheses were raised to guide the study. The results also revealed that the most common stressors among the students include continuous poor performance, unfair treatment by boyfriends/girlfriends, and uncertainty about getting a job after graduating, competition with fellow students, overcrowded lecture halls, and high expectations from parents, not attending lectures, and conflict with fellow students. It also revealed that the strategies employed by students in coping with stress include being assertive enough to remove certain obstacles blocking their right success. It was recommended that good eating habits should be a priority of students in relation to stress management and enough sleep and exercise is an important remedy to stress management.

Keywords:  Academic stress, conflict, stressors, depression, and anxiety.

Introduction

Stress has been defined in different ways by different authors. Akinboye (2002) described     stress as the body’s response to any undesirable mental, physical, emotional, social.

Environmental demand.

Akinade (2005) defined stress as a pattern of cognitive appraisal, physiological responses, and behavioral tendencies that occur in a response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with them. It is something that occurs when people are faced with events they perceive as endangering their physical or psychological wellbeing. It is any stimulus that creates a state of tension or threat or challenge and requires change or adaptation.

It may be seen as a chronically high level of mental arousal and body tension that exceeds a person’s capacity to cope. Akinade (2007) also opines that stress is any stimulus that either raises your excitement or anxiety level beyond what you regard as above your usual or personal capabilities. From the above definitions, stress can be described as an ineffective and unhealthy reaction to change. It leads to metabolic disturbances and anxiety, which challenge the body’s homeostasis. Arowolo (2007) in his own submission believed that stress among university undergraduates may be as a result of the physical environment, personal/social, health/emotional, educational, and lack of career/vocational counseling.

Stress is a global public health issue that is regarded as a force that can propel every human being to behave either positively or negatively (Lazarus & Folkman, 2013; Kadapatti & Vijayalaxmi, 2012). Stress affects human beings physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually (Chandra & Batada, 2006). Ninety percent (90%) of visits to the physicians were observed to be associated with stress (Akinboye, Akinboye, & Adeyemo, 2012). Stress is, therefore, an unavoidable characteristic of life. It influences the individual’s response to the internal stimuli or the external environment and characterises individuals to different personality types. Personality types are a collection of personality traits that are believed to occur together consistently, especially as determined by a certain pattern of response to a personality inventory. This personality trait predisposes an individual to behave in a fairly broad and consistent pattern (Tan, Winkelman & Sayiner, 2012). Sayina (2006) stated that stress is not only a factor in working places; it is also a common factor in the educational environment experienced by students. The more the society strives to modernize and industrializeFREDO FINAL OK, the greater the force of stress in the lives of people.

Today, almost everything is fast-paced, including technology, education, culture, and society. The high societal expectations on students to perform various undefined, inconsistent, and unachievable roles in the present socio-cultural, economic, and bureaucratic contexts of the society cause heavy stress on students (Lal, 2014). Consequently, the current generation of students is much more stressed out and anxious when compared to previous generations (Teh, Ngo, Zulkifli, Vellasamy & Suresh, 2015; Leppink, Odlaug, Lust, Christenson & Grant, 2016). This is because the current generation of students is seen as the most capable, especially with their proficiency in technology. However, being seen as the capable ones has placed high expectations on them and they are being forced to follow unrealistic expectations (Howe, 2007). Depression, anxiety, and stress have harmful effects on both individuals and society. They can lead to negative outcomes, such as impaired normal functioning, burnout, and health problems.

Every educational institution has its various stressors in the learning environment. This may include project writing in the face of limited materials, lack of constant supply of water and power, examinations especially under non-conducive conditions, food insecurity, and the likes. Statistics have shown that in the United States for instance, between 2006 and 2013, four out of ten college students reported that they feel stressed often; one out of five said they feel stressed most of the time; one out of four students experienced daily stress and one in ten had thoughts of suicide (Hardy, 2013). The constant examination has been implicated as a major cause of stress Muhamad, 2010). The situation is not any different in Nigeria as with other developing countries. Eweniyi (2009), in his study in Ogun State University, Nigeria established a nexus between stress management skills and academic performance. Stallman (2008) and Eweniyi (2009) have observed that students suffer more stress than the rest of the population, but they seldom seek help. Response to stress does not only affect the personality types and academic behaviour of students but also has a significant effect on their physical and mental well-being (Chandra & Batada, 2006). This is why there is a rise in mental illness cases in our Universities. Stressed students are also more likely to be poorly motivated, less productive, less safe at work, and vulnerable to social vices such as drug abuse and violence. On the whole, the institutions are less likely to succeed in a competitive market (Meglio, 2012).

 

Statement of Problem

The motivation for this research is that there have been reported cases of stress among students that have resulted in the loss of lives. The causes for such actions are not known since the victims of stress are never present to tell their stories. Although the counseling center within the university does keep records of students who seek help from them, this alone has failed to help identify strongly the causes and coping mechanisms. Again, there have been cases of reported violence among some students and reported cases of poor lectures attendance. The future of any nation lies heavily on the young people since they are tomorrow’s leaders; therefore, it is important to identify the causes, symptoms, and consequences of stress on students. This will help the university administrators to come up with the best strategies to enable the students to cope up with these stressors while pursuing their academic careers. The negative effect of stress on students is likely to pose challenges to the individual students, their colleagues, and the institution as a whole. The outcome associated with stress such as suicide, violence, and drug abuse among others have been witnessed in the institution often, and are worth paying attention to. Stress poses a great threat to the quality of life for students. Students interact amongst themselves as well as with

their lecturers, therefore unduly stressed and unhappy students will reflect this in the process of the engagement that may result in conflict. Therefore, the need for a study of this nature was aimed at the assessment of stress levels among students in selected tertiary institutions in Adamawa.

 

Research Questions

What are the common symptoms of stress among the students while on campus?

What are the most common stressors among the students?

To what extent students experience stress while on campus

What are the strategies employed by students in coping with stress?

 

Research Hypotheses

HO1:    There is no significant difference in the cognitive stress experienced between male and female undergraduates

HO2:    There is no significant relationship in the cognitive stress experienced among students in College of Education, Hong, Federal Polytechnic, Mubi and ABU, Zaria, Hong Campus.

 

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Research Design

The study adopted a descriptive survey design and examines academic stress and coping strategies among students in selected tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. This design is chosen because Jen (2002) says that the survey is used for descriptive, explanatory, and exploratory purposes, and of course this survey is descriptive in nature and therefore is more appropriate for this study. However, descriptive survey design is considered appropriate because it allows for the collection of data from a group of people at the same time to describe phenomena under study. A descriptive study also allows the investigator to discuss the phenomenon under study as it exists at the time of the study.

 

Population and Sample

The target population for the study comprised students of three tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. Five faculties/schools were chosen by simple random sampling while 20 students were chosen from each of the faculties/schools. The sample size of 300 was chosen from the three tertiary institutions by stratified sampling technique using age, sex, and level as strata.

 

Research Instrument

The research instrument titled “Academic Stress among Undergraduates Questionnaire” (ASAUQ) was adapted from (Arowole & Alade, 2014 and Joseph & Henry, 2009). The instrument is comprised of 45 items divided into 5 sections. Section A contained the demographic characteristics of the respondents which constituted age, sex, gender, course of study, name of institution, and course of study. Section B contained 10 items that assessed the symptoms of stress among undergraduates. Section C contained 10 items that measured the most common stressors among undergraduates. Section D contained 10 items that measure the extent to which students experience stress while on the campus while Section E contained 10 items that measured the coping strategies employed by students while on campus.

 

Validity and Reliability of Instrument

The face and content validity of the instrument was established by the expert in Counselling Psychology in the Department of Science Education, Adamawa State University, Mubi. The reliability of the instrument was carried out in Adamawa State Polytechnic, Yola using the test-retest reliability method. The first test was administered on 30 students, while the second test was administered on the same set of students after two weeks. A reliability coefficient of 0.82 was obtained.

 

Data Collection and Analysis

The researcher and two research assistants administered the questionnaires and collected them on the spot. The collected data were analyzed using mean, t-test, and Analysis of Variance.

 

RESULTS

Research Question 1: What are the common symptoms of stress among the students while on campus?

Table 1: Responses on common symptoms of stress among the students while at the campus

S/N Items N Mean Remarks
1. Experience anxiety or nervous indigestion 300 2.91 Accepted
2. People at home or school make me feel anxious 300 2.73 Accepted
3. I eat, drink, or smoke in response to anxiety-producing

situations

300 2.76 Accepted
4. I feel tense, experience pain in the neck or shoulders

and suffer from migraine headaches or have difficulty in breathing

 

300

 

3.08

 

Accepted

5. I can’t stop thinking about my concerns at night or

weekends long enough to feel relaxed and refreshed the next day

 

300

 

1.48

 

Rejected

6. I have trouble concentrating on what I’m doing because I’m worried about other things 300 1.88 Rejected
7

 

.

I take over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs to relax  

300

 

3.35

 

Accepted

8. I do experience irritability because of a lack of proper

sleep at night

300 3.39 Accepted
9. I do experience migraine or headache 300 3.34 Accepted
10. Students may have a poor appetite and low immunity 300 2.88 Accepted

 

Accepted ( is 2.5 and above) Rejected (   is less than 2.5)

Table 1 shows the responses to common symptoms of stress among students while on campus. Respondents agreed to experience anxiety or nervous indigestion (, people at home or school make me feel nervous (, eating, drinking or smoking in response to anxiety-producing situations (, feeling tense, experience pain in the neck or shoulders and suffer from migraine headaches or have difficulty in breathing (, take over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs to relax (, do experience irritability because of lack of proper sleep at night (, experience migraine or headache (, and poor appetite and low immunity ( as the common symptoms of stress among students on campus.

Research Question 2: What are the most common stressors among the students?

 

Table 2: Responses on most common stressors among students

S/N ITEMS N Mean Remarks
1. Experience anxiety or nervous indigestion 300 2.82 Accepted
2. People at home or school make me feel anxious 300 2.73 Accepted
3. Too much workload 300 1.87 Rejected
4. Inadequate resources to do assignments 300 1.82 Rejected
5. Uncertainty about getting a job after graduating 300 3.03 Accepted
6. Competition with fellow students 300 3.22 Accepted
7. Overcrowded lecture halls 300 2.76 Accepted
8. High expectations from parents 300 3.12 Accepted
9. Not attending lectures 300 2.92 Accepted
10. Conflict with fellow students 300 2.82 Accepted

 

Accepted ( is 2.5 and above) Rejected (   is less than 2.5)

Table 2 reveals the most common stressors among students on campus. These stressors according to respondents include continuous poor performance (, unfair treatment by boyfriends/girlfriends (, uncertainty about getting a job after graduating (, competition with fellow students (, overcrowded lecture halls (, high expectations from parents (, not attending lectures (, and conflict with fellow students (.

 

Research Question 3: To what extent do students experience stress while on campus?

Table 3: Responses on the extent to which students experience stress while on campus

S/N Items N Mean Remarks
1. Dropping out of school 300 3.09 Accepted
2. Low grades 300 3.05 Accepted
3. Repetition of level 300 2.89 Accepted
4. The feeling of suicidal attempt 300 3.29 Accepted
5. Improve concentration 300 2.56 Accepted
6. Amnesia (Partial/total loss of memory) 300 2.73 Accepted
7. Insomnia (Sleepless night) 300 1.80 Rejected
8. I feel apprehensive during examinations 300 1.83 Rejected
9. At times, I feel like abandoning my course 300 2.85 Accepted
10. I feel tensed up when the timetable for examination is out 300 3.44 Accepted

 

Accepted ( is 2.5 and above) Rejected (   is less than 2.5)

Table 3 shows the extent to which students experience stress while on campus. The study revealed that students experience stress to extent of dropping out of school (                      , having low grades (           , repetition of level (, feeling of suicidal attempt(                  , improve concentration (      , amnesia (partial/total loss of memory) (         , feeling like

abandoning course (  and feeling tensed up when the timetable for examination is out( .

Research Question 4: What are the strategies employed by students in coping with stress?

Table 4: Responses on strategies employed by students in coping with stress

abandoning course (  and feeling tensed up when the timetable for examination is out( .

Research Question 4: What are the strategies employed by students in coping with stress?

S/N Items N Mean Remarks
1. Keeping the body in good condition 300 1.52 Rejected
2. Rest and sleep 300 1.74 Rejected
3. Eat well 300 1.49 Rejected
4. Learn to be flexible where necessary 300 1.80 Rejected
5. Be assertive enough to remove certain obstacles blocking their right success 300 2.54 Accepted
6. Find a form of exercise you truly enjoy 300 3.18 Accepted
7. Watch your lifestyle. Avoid overindulgence in social activities that will increase your stress 300 3.32 Accepted
8. Have a regular medical check-up to ensure your entire body is functioning normally 300 1.87 Rejected
9. Try to crack some jokes and create some humour laugh at yourself. Humour heals stress 300 1.17 Rejected
10. Engage in a hobby (dancing, singing, art, etc.) 300 2.89 Accepted

 

Accepted ( is 2.5 and above) Rejected (   is less than 2.5)

Table 4 shows strategies employed by students in coping with stress. Responses show that the strategies employed by students include being assertive enough to remove certain obstacles blocking their right success (, find a form of exercise they truly enjoy (, watch your lifestyle; avoid overindulgence into social activities that will increase your stress ( and engage in a hobby (dancing, singing, art, etc.)

Hypothesis 1: There is no significant difference in the cognitive stress experienced between male and female undergraduates

Gender N SD df t-cal t-crit Remarks
Cognitive

Stress

Male 179 1.56 0.49794 0.366 0.493 Accepted
Female 121 1.54 0.50069

 

*Not Significant: (P>0.05)

Table 5, showed that the t-cal of0.366 was obtained which is lower than the critical t-critical of 0.493 at P>0.05 level of significance. This shows that there is no significant difference

in cognitive stress experienced between male and female undergraduates. Therefore, the null hypothesis is therefore accepted.

Hypothesis 2: There is no significant relationship in the cognitive stress experienced among students in College of Education, Hong, Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Hong Campus

Table 6: Relationship in the cognitive stress  experienced among students in various tertiary

institutions

 

Source of Variable Sum of Squares df Mean Square F-cal F-crit Decision
Between Groups 43.006 1 43.006 43.641 3.87 Rejected
Within Groups 293.661 299 .985
Total 336.667 300

*Significant: (P<0.05)

The F-value of 43.641 obtained as shown in Table 6 is higher than the critical F-value of

3.87 at P < 0.05 level of significance. The null hypothesis is therefore rejected, and the alternative accepted. This implies that there is a significant relationship in the cognitive stress experienced among students in various tertiary institutions.

Discussion of Findings

From the foregoing findings, the results clearly show that students are stressed. The symptoms identified are anxiety, nervousness, indigestion, tense, pain in the neck or shoulders and people at home or school make me feel anxious, taking over the counter medications or prescription drugs, feel tense, pain in the neck and shoulders, lack of proper sleep, migraine or headache and poor appetite which is in consonance with earlier studies (Joseph & Henry, 2009) who established that symptoms of stress are students have experienced anxiety, or nervous or having indigestion problems more than once at the University. They also posited that students experience a lot of pressure from home or cam-pus which impact either negatively or positively on their daily lives.

The study also found out that, the major causes of stress among students are continuous poor performance, unfair treatment by boyfriend/girlfriend, overcrowded lecture halls, the uncertainty of getting jobs after graduation, competition with fellow students, high expectations from parents, not attending lectures and conflict with fellow students. This finding is quite consistent with earlier studies by Erkutlu and Chafra (2006) and Joseph & Henry(2009) who outlined academic stressors to include continuous poor performance, relationships with fiancés or fiancées are causing stress, academic workload.

The extent to which students experience stress while on campus was also investigated. The findings indicated that some students drop out of school, experience low grades, repeat level, feel suicidal, experience amnesia, feel like abandoning courses and feel tensed up every time the examination timetable is out. It has been argued that an individual can have possibly anxious thoughts, difficulty concentrating, or remember because of being stressed. Stress can lead also to change in people’s behaviors, such as nail-biting, heavy breathing, teeth clenching, and hand wringing. When people are stressed, they may feel cold hands and feet, butterflies in the stomach, and sometimes increased heart rate, which all are regarded as common physiological effects of stress, which can be connected to the emotion of anxiety (Suresh, 2015).

Physical and psychological responses to stress generally occur together, principally when stressors become more intense. However, one category of stress responses can influence other responses. For instance, mild chest pain may lead to the psychological stress response of worrying about getting a heart attack. Physical responses can be when a person escapes from a terrible accident or some other frightening event, he or she will experience rapid breathing, increased heart beating, sweating, and even shaking a little later. These reactions are part of a general pattern known as the fight-or-flight syndrome. The psychological responses to stress can appear as changes in emotions, thoughts (cognition), and behaviors (Bernstein, Penner, Stewart & Roy, 2008).

The study also investigated strategies employed by students in coping with stress. The results reveal that students employ being assertive enough to remove certain obstacles blocking their right success, find a form of exercise they truly enjoy, watch your lifestyle, avoid overindulgence into social activities that will increase stress, and engage in a hobby (dancing, singing, art, etc.). Stress does not affect all people equally, but stress can lead to illness and negative experiences. Coping with stress is therefore an important factor, it affects whether and how people search for medical care and social support and how they believe the advice of the professionals (Passer & Smith 2007). The coping strategies employed by students as revealed by this study are being assertive enough to remove certain obstacles blocking the right success, watching one’s lifestyle, finding a form of exercise you truly enjoy, try to crack some jokes and create some humor, and engaging in a hobby which is in agreement with (Suresh, 2015).

Stressful situations are viewed as the transactions between an individual and the environment. Two important types of appraisal characterize these transactions: an appraisal of the stressor by the person, and appraisal of the stressor in terms of social and cultural resources available to the person. The first appraisal known also as the primary appraisal is resulting from a person examining or appraising the potential threat when facing a stressor. The primary appraisal is described as an individual evaluation of major effects of an event, as stressful, positive, controllable, and challenging or irrelevant. The second appraisal is the assessment of the available resources and options available to a person in order to copy with the actual stressor.

The findings of the study showed there is no significant difference in the cognitive stress experienced between male and female undergraduates. This study is in consonance with Suresh (2015) who established that there was a significant difference in the stress experienced by male and female students. They posited that this could be due to the fact that males are known to develop a certain attitude in coping with various types of stress such as smoking, consumption of alcoholic drinks, visits to clubs, use of tranquilizer/drugs, and exercises, while females prefer relaxation, talking to friends, and crying. However, a similar study was carried out by Arowolo and Alade (2014) and the finding of the study revealed there was a significant difference in the cognitive stress experienced between male and female undergraduates in southwest Nigeria.

The findings of the study also revealed that there is a significant relationship in the cognitive stress experienced among students in College of Education, Hong, Federal Polytechnic, Mubi and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Hong Campus. This is in line with the study carried out

by Arowolo and Alade (2014) that identified in their study that science and Arts students do not differ significantly in their academic stress scores.

 

CONCLUSION

Stress is part of everyone’s life and academic stress among students can create havoc in their life. Under academic stress, performance gets hindered and students can take wrong decisions under the influence of stress. The symptoms identified are anxiety, nervousness, indigestion, endless worries, tension, pain in the neck or shoulders, and people at home or school. While these symptoms do not tell the cases that have already lost control, it is important to note that they are hampering students’ ways of academic life. Stress has been associated with the outcomes such as suicides, violent behavior, or even social withdrawals and the need to address issues should be seen as urgent. Social support is considered one of the most important ways of coping with academic stress.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations were made:

University management should establish a student public forum where students and the university management can interact and discuss issues bordering on the welfare of the students. This could ameliorate cognitive stress among university undergraduates.

The student union in collaboration with the sports council and management should organized games and social programs for students.

There should be frequent interaction between academic staff and students on how best to schedule intensive courses in the cause of the semester work.

Guidance and counseling unit should be part of the school management system so that students can come there to discuss issues affecting them.

Creative games should be organized during lectures that have longer hours from 3-6 hours in order to some extent relieve stress from students and refresh their minds and make them active.

 

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AUTHOR & AFFILIATION

FAREO DORCAS OLUREMI

Department of Educational Foundations, Adamawa State University, Mubi.

doi:10.33826/ijmras/v02i09-01

 

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