Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Investigating Stress, Psychological Well-Being, Mental Health Functioning, and Self-Regulation Capacity among University Undergraduate Students: Is This Population Optimally Functioning?/Une éTude Des Niveaux De Stress, Bien-êTre Psychologique, Santé Mentale, et Capacité D'auto-Régulation Chez Les éTudiants Universitaires De Premier Cycle : Cette Population Fonctionne-T-Elle De Façon Optimale?

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Investigating Stress, Psychological Well-Being, Mental Health Functioning, and Self-Regulation Capacity among University Undergraduate Students: Is This Population Optimally Functioning?/Une éTude Des Niveaux De Stress, Bien-êTre Psychologique, Santé Mentale, et Capacité D'auto-Régulation Chez Les éTudiants Universitaires De Premier Cycle : Cette Population Fonctionne-T-Elle De Façon Optimale?

Article excerpt

The mental health and well-being of Canadian undergraduate university students is a growing concern as research indicates that 30% of them are highly distressed, with Ontario students reporting the highest levels (Adlaf, Demers, & Gliksman, 2005). More worrisome still, university students' levels of distress are reportedly twice as high as those of their nonstudent peers. The front cover of the September 10, 2012, issue of Macleans magazine drew attention to the mental health crisis across Canadian university campuses. The report revealed that "a shocking number of Canadian students feel depressed, even suicidal" and referred to the student body as a "broken generation" (Lunau, 2012). Furthermore, some studies suggest that university students do not possess adequate coping skills to deal with the adversity inherent in postsecondary education (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, 2001). Self-regulation-a skill that helps individuals to proactively plan, control, evaluate, and adapt their thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to achieve their goals in their changing environment (Zimmerman, 2000)-can lead to increased well-being (Hofer, Busch, & Kärtner, 2011) and adjustment (Park, Edmondson, & Lee, 2012) in students, and thus offers an important avenue for research and counselling with this population. The purpose of this research was to assess the levels of stress, psychological well-being, mental health functioning, and self-regulation capacity of two different samples of university undergraduate students. Another aim was to determine if self-regulation capacity could significantly predict students' levels of stress, psychological well-being, and mental health functioning and, accordingly, make recommendations for counselling practice.

Stress

From a psychosocial perspective, stress results from one's perception of imbal- ance between one's demands and resources, or from pressure that exceeds one's perceived ability to cope (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation leads to distress, which may translate into anxiety, pain, physical suffering, and withdrawal (Selye, 1975). It is alarming that data from 16,123 Ontario university students participating in the Spring 2013 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) survey indicate that mental distress is a significant concern for university students. Specifically, 51% of students reported feeling hopeless, 40% reported feeling so depressed they were not able to function, and 11% seriously considered suicide in the 12 months prior to the questionnaire (ACHA, 2013).

According to national mental health surveys conducted with Canadian under- graduate students in 1998 (Adlaf, Gliksman, Demers, & Newton-Taylor, 2001) and 2004 (Adlaf et ah, 2005), approximately one third of students faced elevated psychological distress, with women reporting higher levels than men in the latter study. These findings are consistent with results of another study indicating that although female undergraduate students had more effective time management behaviours, they reported higher levels of academic stress and anxiety and benefited less from leisure activities than their male counterparts (Misra & McKean, 2000). Interestingly, Adlaf and colleagues' (2001) study indicated that distress declined as students progressed through their program of study. However, this finding was not replicated with the 2004 student sample (Adlaf et ah, 2005). This decline in stress was also found by Misra and McKean (2000), as well as Rawson et al. (2001), who reported that sophomore students had higher mean levels of stress than juniors within their college student population. Rawson and colleagues suggested that sophomores' stress levels may be high because students in this cohort "have not yet developed the coping mechanisms used by older students to deal with college stress" (pp. 326-327). Recently, it was highlighted in the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) report that while 37% of Ontario undergraduate students have utilized mental health services by their fourth year of study, roughly three out of four students did so in their first year, suggesting that the initial transition to university may be a challenging time for students (Pin & Martin, 2012). …

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