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The Relationship Between Life Stress And Health Inventory Scores In A Collegiate Population

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Scientific literature is replete with studies examining the relationship between stressful life events and the occurrence of compromised immune function as suggested by the presence of various illnesses. Forty college students answered questionnaires regarding the presence of stressful life events and the presence or absence of recent illnesses. The relationship between these scores was examined. Life stress scores were significantly positively related to scores indicating illnesses on a health inventory. As scores indicating the presence of stressful life experiences increased, scores suggesting the presence of illness also increased.



Each bodily physiological system has an individual established set point, or level of balance; however, some fluctuations in these levels are tolerated. The balance of any system can be, and regularly is disturbed by internal and/or external events of the mechanical, physical, chemical, biological, and/or social types. When this balance is disrupted, and involuntary mobilizations of biological processes are not able to re-establish it, an alarm reaction is activated (Schedlowski and Tewes, 1999). This reaction is referred to as a stress response, and the activating agent is the stressor (Selye, 1936).

Recently, studies of stress have shifted from demonstrating relationships between psychological factors and somatic outcomes, to investigations of the mediational pathways involved in these associations. For example, (Cohen and Williamson, 1991) have built on the work of Lazarus' model by suggesting that once an environmental event is encountered, it is appraised, and an affective response is made. After this response is made, a cascade of behavioral and physiological processes is activated. Behavioral factors such as increased alcohol use, reduced exercise, changes in sleep quantity/quality, and changes in diet, have shown to be related to stress. In turn, stress-related changes are associated with many hormonal fluctuations known to influence susceptibility to disease (Schedlowski and Tewes, 1999).

There is overwhelming evidence that daily stress may be harmful to the overall health of humans (Cohen, Tyrrell, and Smith, 1991; Glaser, Rice, and Sheridan, 1987; and Schleifer, and Keller, 1991). The mechanism by which stress influences health outcomes is thought to involve the immune system.


As reviewed, research has examined the interaction between stressful life events and the overall health of humans. This investigation will examine this relationship in a collegiate population, using two pen and paper surveys.


Scores on the College Life Stress Inventory (CLSI) (Renner and Mackin, 1998)

will be positively related to scores on the Health Inventory (HI) (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). The proposed research design will be a correlative analysis between participants' scores on these two measures.




Forty members of a Research Methods in Psychology course at the University of Missouri - St. Louis (UMSL) served as participants in this examination. These participants were recruited within their respective laboratory periods. No money was awarded to subjects for their participation. 18 participants (Ps) were juniors, and 22 Ps were seniors in college.

Measures Used

College Life Stress Inventory

Each participant indicated the presence of each of 51 stressful college life events by circling the number next to the events that had been experienced within the last year. Scores were obtained by totaling all values circled (Renner and Mackin, 1998). See Appendix A.

Health Inventory

The HI utilizes a 4-point Likert scale (0 = "no problem," to 3 = "significant problem") in order to rate the level of difficulty each participant had experienced within the last year, with each of 32 types of health malady (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). See Appendix A.


Participants were asked not to put names on the surveys in order to protect their identities and to ensure confidentiality. Consent forms were not handed out, per American Psychological Association (APA) (1998) guidelines for class data collection. Subjects were briefed on the survey instructions, and preceded to fill out demographic information and the CLSI and HI.



All statistical analyses were run using the SYSTAT statistical package in the UMSL Mac lab. A Pearson Product Correlation analyses was computed in order to address the aforementioned hypothesis regarding stressful life events and overall health. The correlational analysis revealed a correlation coefficient of 0.479 (p = .002).



Our hypothesis stated that scores on the CLSI would be positively related to scores on the HI. Upon scoring the survey results, we were able to confirm that there was a positive relationship between the scores on the CLSI and the HI.

Limitations of the Current Research

There were several limitations to our research. The first limitation being that there was no random assignment in our research, by this we mean that all Ps were students enrolled in Research Methods at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. Our study may not adequately reflect the general



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