Academic journal article College Student Journal

Stress and Substance Use among ASIAN American and Latino College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Stress and Substance Use among ASIAN American and Latino College Students

Article excerpt

The present study investigated the relationship between stress and substance use among 347 Asian American, 346 Latino, and 776 White college students. Although stress was not found to predict substance use among the ethnic/ethnic group studied, results of the study indicated that Latino students reported a significantly higher stress level than White students. The overall findings augment the paucity of previous research about race and ethnicity in relation to substance use. With increasing Asian American and Latino students on college campuses, more attention must be given to issues that may impede their retention and graduation.

Keywords: Asian American, Latino, college students, stress, substance use


The adaptation to college life can bring a multitude of stressors that the young adult has yet to encounter. Living away from home, meeting new friends, challenging schoolwork assignments, finding a job, and adjusting to residence hall life can make a student feel overwhelmed. Many find themselves encountering stress and anxiety about a variety of new challenges and their personal coping techniques may affect how they handle these stressors. As students progress through their college career, they may find the unique responsibilities of adult life becoming increasingly difficult. Adding to the stress of college life are issues that have not been fully studied in context with race/ethnicity as a type of stressor correlated with substance use.

According to the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) of 2008, stress was identified as the primary barrier to students' academic performance (American College Health Association [ACHA], 2009). Stressors college students face include finances, academic challenges, adjustment to new and different living conditions, relationships, changes in sleeping habits, racial discrimination, and increased responsibilities at work, school or in family life (Dusselier, Dunn, Wang, Shelley, & Whalen, 2005; Hwang & Goto, 2008; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999).

A study by Broman demonstrated that daily life and past traumatic stress were correlated to increased alcohol and drug problems, particularly among white students (Broman, 2005). According to Dusselier et al. (2005), environmental issues such as roommate disputes and noise within the residence halls making it difficult to study were also stress inducers. The use of alcohol also increased stress levels of students. This outcome is in agreement with the ACHA-NCHA 2007 study demonstrating that alcohol use was listed as the tenth leading obstacle in a student's academic success (ACHA, 2009; Dusselier et al., 2005).

How students cope with their stress levels is influenced by their perception of their ability to manage stress and their actual stress management techniques. The sense of control over one's life (locus of control) is a moderator of stress levels as well. Belief that one has a strong ability to solve one's problems (self-efficacy) enhances one's perception of how well one manages stress in everyday life. This perception or self-efficacy is a strong predictor of actual stress management (Largo-Wight, Peterson, & Chen, 2005). According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), methods of coping with stress are either emotion-focused or problem-focused. Someone who has greater self-efficacy in problem solving is a person who uses problem-focused coping strategies. A student who uses emotion-focused coping techniques does not believe they have control over the outcome of the problem causing them further stress. They will be more likely to have negative emotions due to this stressor and possibly utilize unhealthy coping skills, such as substance use (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; O'Hare & Sherrer, 2000; Smith & Rank, 2007).

Stress and Substance Use

Studies have shown that stress has been strongly associated with increased substance use and abuse among college students (Broman, 2005; Dusselier, et al. …

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