Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Sarah O’Neill

Second Advisor

Adriana Espinosa

Third Advisor

Vivien Tartter


Health, Wellbeing, Academic Achievement


The post-secondary educational environment is full of demands—both academically and outside of the direct college setting—and as a result, stress is a prevailing concern for college students. Chronic, high levels of stress have been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, such as anxiety and depression, and academic outcomes, such as lower academic achievement. Using a diverse sample of undergraduate and masters students [n=84; mean (SD) age = 22.89 (5.99) years] from an urban, public college, the current study measured students’ experiences of stress (Perceived Stress Scale) and the adaptive and maladaptive strategies they utilized to cope with stress, including mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale), physical activity (International Physical Activity Questionnaire – Short Form), and substance use (Rutgers Collegiate Substance Abuse Screening Test). This study then assessed whether these experiences differed for students who were achieving highly (as measured by semester-end GPA) and whether stress predicted anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory) and depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II). Participants completed three surveys at the beginning, middle, and end of the academic semester. Participants experienced chronic, high levels of stress and a substantial minority experienced moderate to severe levels of anxiety and depression. Experiences of stress did not differ as a function of academic achievement. Few students expressed problem substance use and most engaged in moderate to high levels of physical activity. There is preliminary evidence to suggest that changes in stress and mindfulness were predictive of changes in anxiety and depression. These results suggest that promoting mindfulness and physical activity as interventions in college settings may be beneficial to buffer the effects of stress on anxiety and depression. Future studies delineating the sources of stress and their relation to coping strategies may help to better identify those most likely to benefit from these strategies. Furthermore, HEALTH, WELLBEING, & ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT viii assessing concurrent coping strategies specifically associated with academics would help to further clarify the role of mindfulness and physical activity as adaptive coping mechanisms. Keywords: stress, coping, anxiety, depression, academic achievement


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