Psychosocial Moderators of Perceived Stress, Anxiety and Depression in University Students: An International Study

DOI: 10.4236/jss.2014.211004   PDF   HTML     4,986 Downloads   6,594 Views   Citations


Extensive research shows university students experience high levels of stress, which can lead to the development of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Preliminary evidence supports the role of psychosocial factors such as perceived social support (PSS) and campus connectedness (CC) as protective factors in the development of mental health problems in university students. However, research conducted on the potential ameliorating effects of social support on stress applying Cohen and Wills’ (1985) stress-buffering hypothesis produced weak, inconsistent, and even contradictory results. In addition, little attention has been given to examining the protective role of CC in the relationships between perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. The cur- rent study examined the applicability of CC and PSS in buffering the relationships been perceived stress, anxiety, and depression across an international sample comprised of university students (N = 206) from Australia, Hong Kong, and the United States. The prediction that CC and PSS would moderate the relationships between perceived stress, anxiety, and depression was partially sup- ported. The results indicated CC moderated the relationship between perceived stress and depression but did not moderate the relationship between perceived stress and anxiety. PSS did not moderate the relationship between perceived stress and depression or the relationship between perceived stress and anxiety, thus rejecting the stress-buffering hypothesis. These findings sug- gest less emphasis should be placed on PSS as a protective factor, with universities focusing on enhancing CC to reduce the high prevalence of mental health problems to promote psychological wellbeing among students.

Share and Cite:

Pidgeon, A. , McGrath, S. , Magya, H. , Stapleton, P. and Lo, B. (2014) Psychosocial Moderators of Perceived Stress, Anxiety and Depression in University Students: An International Study. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 23-31. doi: 10.4236/jss.2014.211004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Lee, C., Dickson, D.A., Conley, C.S. and Holmbeck, G.N. (2014) A Closer Look at Self-Esteem, Perceived Social Support, and Coping Strategy: A Prospective Study of Depressive Symptomatology across the Transition to College. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33, 560-585.
[2] Bewick, B., Koutsopoulou, G., Miles, J., Slaa, E. and Barkham, M. (2010) Changes in Undergraduate Students’ Psychological Wellbeing as They Progress through University. Studies in Higher Education, 35, 633-645.
[3] Andrews, B. and Wilding, J.M. (2004) The Relation of Depression and Anxiety to Life-Stress and Achievement in Students. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 509-521.
[4] Chen, L., Wang, L., Qiu, X.H., Yang, X.X., Qiao, Z.X., Yang, Y.J. and Liang, Y. (2013) Depression among Chinese University Students: Prevalence and Socio-Demographic Correlates. PLoS One, 8, 667-672.
[5] Wintre, M.G. and Yaffe, M. (2000) First-Year Students’ Adjustment to University Life as a Function of Relationships with Parents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 9-37.
[6] Vaez, M., Kristenson, M. and Laflamme, L. (2004) Perceived Quality of Life and Self-Rated Health among First-Year University Students. Social Indicators Research, 68, 221-234.
[7] Gruttadaro, D. and Crudo, D. (2012) College Students Speak: A Survey on Mental Health. National Alliance on Mental Health.
[8] Cohen, S. (2004) Social Relationships and Health. The American Psychologist, 59, 676-684.
[9] Dahlem, W.N., Zimet, D.G. and Walker, R.R. (1991) The Multi-dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support: A Confirmation Study. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 756-761.
[10] El Ansari, W., Stock, C., Snelgrove, S., Hu, X., Parke, S., Davies, S. and Mabhala, A. (2011) Feeling Healthy: A Survey of Physical and Psychological Wellbeing of Students from Seven Universities in the UK. Interna-tional Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 1308-23.
[11] Lee, R.M., Dean, B.L. and Jung, K.R. (2008) Social Connectedness, Extraversion, and Subjective Wellbeing: Testing a Mediation Model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 414-419.
[12] Eisenbarth, C.A., Champeau, D.A. and Donatelle, R.J. (2013) Relationship of Appraised Stress, Coping Strategies, and Negative Affect among College Students. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 3, 131-138.
[13] Hammen, C., Brennan, P.A. and Shih, J.H. (2004) Family Discord and Stress Predictors of Depression and Other Disorders in Adolescent Children of Depressed and Nondepressed Women. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 994-1002.
[14] Stewart-Brown, S., Evans, J., Patterson, J., Petersen, S., Doll, H., Balding, J. and Regis, D. (2000) The Health of Students in Institutes of Higher Education: An Important and Neglected Public Health Problem. Journal of Public Health Medicine, 22, 492.
[15] Stallman, H.M. (2010) Psychological Distress in University Students: A Comparison with General Population Data. Australian Psychologist, 45, 249-257.
[16] Eisenberg, D., Speer, N. and Hunt, J.B. (2012) Attitudes and Beliefs about Treatment among College Students with Untreated Mental Health Problems. Psychiatric Services, 63, 711-713.
[17] Wong, J.G.W.S., Cheung, E.P.T., Chan, K.K.C., Ma, K.K.M. and Tang, S.W. (2006) Web-Based Survey of Depression, Anxiety and Stress in First-Year Tertiary Education Students in Hong Kong. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40, 777-782.
[18] Uchino, B.N. (2009) Understanding the Links between Social Support and Physical Health: A Life-Span Perspective with Emphasis on the Separability of Perceived and Received Support. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 236- 255.
[19] Hyde, L.W., Gorka, A., Manuck, S.B. and Hariri, A.R. (2011) Perceived Social Support Moderates the Link between Threat-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Trait Anxiety. Neuropsychologia, 49, 651-656.
[20] Thoits, P.A. (2011) Mechanisms Linking Social Ties and Support to Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 52, 145-161.
[21] Warner, R.M. (2013) Applied Statistics: From Bivariate through Multivariate Techniques. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks.
[22] Cohen, S. and Wills, T.A. (1985) Stress, Social Support, and the Buffering Hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310-357.
[23] Lazarus, S.R. and Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. Springer Publishing Company, New York.
[24] Skok, A., Harvey, D. and Reddihough, D. (2006) Perceived Stress, Perceived Social Support, and Wellbeing among Mothers of School-Aged Children with Cerebral Palsy. Journal of In-tellectual and Developmental Disability, 31, 53-57.
[25] Chao, R.C.L. (2012) Managing Perceived Stress among College Students: The Roles of Social Support and Dysfunctional Coping. Journal of College Counseling, 15, 5-21.
[26] Yarcheski, A. and Mahon, N.E. (1999) The Moderator-Mediator Role of Social Support in Early Adolescents. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 21, 685-698.
[27] Williams, K.L. and Galliber, R.V. (2006) Predicting Depression and Self-Esteem from Social Connectedness, Support, and Competence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 855-874.
[28] Lee, R.M. and Robbins, S.B. (1995) Measuring Belongingness: The Social Connectedness and the Social Assurance Scales. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 42, 232.
[29] Leary, K.A. and DeRosier, M.E. (2012) Factors Promoting Positive Adaptation and Resilience during the Transition to College. Psychology, 3, 1215-1222.
[30] Lee, R.M., Keough, K.A. and Sexton, J.D. (2002) Social Con-nectedness, Social Appraisal, and Perceived Life Stress in College Women and Men. Journal of Counselling and Development, 80, 355-361.
[31] Townsend, K.C. and McWhirter, B.T. (2005) Connectedness: A Review of the Literature with Implications for Counseling, Assessment, and Research. Journal of Counseling and Development, 83, 191-201.
[32] Rude, S.S. and Burnham, B.L. (1995) Connectedness and Neediness: Factors of the DEQ and SAS Dependency Scales. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19, 323-340.
[33] Cohen, S., Kamarck, T. and Mermelstein, R. (1983) A Global Measure of Perceived Stress. Journal of Health and So- cial Behaviour, 24, 385-396.
[34] Lovibond, S.H. and Lovibond, P.F. (1995) Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. 2nd Edition, Psychology Foundation, Sydney.
[35] Chaplin, W.F. (1991) The Next Generation of Moderator Research in Personality Psychology. Journal of Personality, 59, 143-178.
[36] Evans, M.G. (1985) A Monte Carlo Study of the Effects of Correlated Method Variance in Moderated Multiple Regression Analysis. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 36, 305-323.
[37] Aiken, L.S. and West, S.G. (1991) Multiple Regression: Testing and Interpreting Interactions. Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks.
[38] Dawson, J.F. and Ritchter, A.Q. (2006) Probing Three-Way Interaction in Moderated Multiple Regression: Development and Application of a Slope Difference Test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 917-926.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.