Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Chronic Stress and Its Consequences on Subsequent Academic Achievement among Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Chronic Stress and Its Consequences on Subsequent Academic Achievement among Adolescents

Article excerpt


Chronic stress has been associated with severe stress-related symptoms not only among adults but also among adolescents. The aim of the study was to investigate if chronic stress has implications for adolescents' academic achievement. 270 high school students answered a questionnaire on stress symptoms on two occasions, at the beginning and at the end of high school. Those who perceived severe stress symptoms at both time points finished high school with significantly worse final grades than those who reported experiencing stress at only one or none of the time points. The risk for chronic stress was increased among adolescents with low global self-esteem, who perceived high demands and reported their self-rated health to be poor and their sleep duration to be insufficient. The results suggest that the early prevention of chronic stress is critical since, if leftuntreated, it can have serious consequences on young people's future health and career possibilities.

Keywords: Chronic stress, Adolescents, Academic achievement

1. Introduction

Throughout the course of a lifetime, individuals face a broad spectrum of demands and challenges that require the use of adaptive coping methods, which implies that life is stressful and that stress experiences are thus inevitable (Thoreson & Eagleston, 1983). Stress experiences are therefore here considered to be a mobilization of energy for mastering life's demands and challenges and thereby restoring the disrupted physical balance that stress may bring about.

An energy imbalance can arise when more energy is spent than is gained and if this persists over a long period of time, chronic stress emerges. Persistent energy depletion of this type has been associated with stress symptoms, such as emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive difficulties (Melamed, Kushnir, & Shirom, 1992; Shirom, 2003). Chronic stress implicates negative consequences on health and well-being (Perski, 2006; Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998) and has been associated with a heightened risk for cardiovascular morbidity, diabetes, immunosuppression, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion syndrome (Johnston-Brooks, Lewis, Evans & Whalen, 1998; Low, Salomon & Matthews, 2009; Perski, 2006). In Sweden, exhaustion syndrome is among the most common diagnoses qualifying adults for long-term sick leave (National Insurance Board, 2011; Social styrelsen, 2003).

It is not only adults who suffer from the negative consequences of prolonged stress. Within the last 20 years, stress and its associated mental health problems have been increasing dramatically among Swedish adolescents (Hagquist, 2010) and it has become a serious public concern (KVH, 2010; SBU, 2010). A number of national surveys and investigations have confirmed the situation, finding that every third adolescent reported serious stress-related symptoms (Bremberg, 2006; Schraml, Perski, Grossi, & Simonsson-Sarnecki, 2011; Socialstyrelsen, 2009). Females have been shown to be more vulnerable to stress and its negative implications on health and well-being than males (Basow & Rubin, 1999; Hagquist, 2009; Schraml et al., 2011).

Since stress-related symptoms emerge over an extended period of time, a fully developed exhaustion syndrome might not be expected to be prevalent among younger populations. However, according to Thoreson and Eagleston (1983), chronic stress has more immediate consequences than the development of a recognizable physical or mental disease. In fact, chronic stress has been associated with greater diastolic blood pressure (Brady & Matthews, 2006; Low et al., 2009), maladjustment in high school (Kenny, Gallagher, Alvarez-Salvat, & Silsby, 2002), and depression (Byrne, Davenport, & Mazanov, 2007; Hankin, Mermelstein, & Roesch, 2007) among adolescents. Furthermore, it was shown that chronic stress has a negative impact on cognitive functioning throughout a person's lifespan (Marin et al. …

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