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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 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: in about 15% 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 mental health problems, 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 was interrelated with 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 suggest that (1) 35-50% of premature drop-outs may be linked to insufficient coping skills; and (2) 85% of students who received a psychiatric diagnosis withdraw from college.

Study of 3,178 Freshman Students  

The «Institute for Response-Genetics (IFRG)», University of Zurich (Switzerland), has carried out a 7-center study with 3,178 college/university students from the United States, Europe, Latin America and China aiming at an "early" identification of freshman students at risk for stress-related health problems. Data analyses revealed 2 scales, "activity" and "defeatism", that allow one to quantify coping behavior in a socio-culturally independent way. These scales are closely related to impaired physical and mental health: the higher a person's defeatism score the higher his/her impairment in terms of physical and mental health, combined with a higher consumption of illegal drugs and lack of physical activity.

vSpacer 7-center study with 3,178 college/university students
Our studies with more than 3,000 students on coping behavior under chronic stress revealed 2 personality traits showing a close link between basic coping behavior and mental health problems, across cultures and ethnicities. The respective scores allow an early detection of psychiatric risk cases prior to the development of clinically relevant symptoms.
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