IFMA Preventive Health Management Inc.

Institute for Medical Advancement

New York, USA

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Coping with Chronic Stress

Epidemiological data indicate that 75% of subjects suffering from major psychiatric disorders or with a previous history of psychiatric disorders have had their onset of the illness between 17 and 24 years of age. This is exactly the time when college and university students receive their higher education, thereby experiencing significant levels of chronic stress over several years. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems. Indeed, for a certain percentage of the general population, chronic stress raises blood pressure, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, suppresses the immune system, and increases the vulnerability to psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.

Psychological Distress

Results from general health surveys of college students indicate (1) 50% of students report psychological distress, compared to only 11% of age-matched controls of the general population; and (2) 30% of students say that chronic stress significantly affects their academic performance. Among those reporting reduced academic performance, the stress-induced burden appeared to be closely related to a pronounced lack of coping skills.

Mental Health and Chronic Stress

50% of students with insufficient coping skills show elevated alcohol consumption, 12% report suicidal thoughts, and 11% have already been treated for mental health problems. As to physical activity, nearly half of these students do not meet the "Recommendation for Adults" of the American Heart Association regarding moderate-intensity cardio or aerobic exercise. Surveys among college students also suggest that (1) 35-50% of premature drop-outs may be linked to insufficient coping skills; and (2) 85% of students who receive a diagnosis of major psychiatric disorder withdraw from college prior to completion of their education.

Study of 2,517 Freshman Students

The «Institute for Response-Genetics (IFRG)», University of Zurich (Switzerland), has carried out a 6-center study with 2,517 college/university students from the United States, Europe, and Southamerica aiming at an "early" identification of freshman students at risk for stress-related health problems. Data analsyses revealed 2 scales, "activity" and "defeatism", that allow one to quantify coping behavior in a socio-culturally independent way. Most notably, these scales were closely related to impaired physical and mental health: the higher a personís defeatism score the higher his/her impairment in terms of physical and mental health or psychosomatic disturbances, combined with a higher consumption of illegal drugs and lack of physical activity [learn more ...].

Academic performance of UZH students for the years 1995-2010
Analysis of the academic performance of UZH students for the years 1995-2010 showed an almost constant percentage of students per year who completed their education with a masterís degree (70%), despite major changes in the demographic characteristics of the student population (UZH: University of Zurich, Switzerland).

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