An Analysis of Stress Symptoms and Their Relation to Sex and Age
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
ROESLER, L. M. (2001). An Analysis of Stress Symptoms and Their Relation to Sex and Age. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

An Analysis of Stress Symptoms and Their Relation to Sex and Age
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between stress symptoms, age, and sex. A pen and paper survey was given to approximately 50 participants. The survey included 20 symptoms of stress and asked the participants to rate how often they experience the symptoms when they are under stress, if at all. After an analysis of the data, it is expected there will be an indirect correlation between age and stress symptoms. It is also expected that the analysis will show females experience more stress symptoms than males. An interaction between sex and age is also expected. Results from studies about stress can help improve treatments for people who suffer from extreme anxiety or exhibit excessive stress symptoms frequently.

There are a few categories that stressors can be classified in. The first is psychogenic stressors (Anisman & Merali, 1999). Psychogenic stressors are of psychological origin. Neurogenic stressors are the second. This kind of stressor involves a physical stimulus. Processive stressors incorporate cognitive processing of the stressful situation. Finally, systemic stressors are of a physical nature (Anisman & Merali, 1999). Characteristics of a stressor, biological factors, and a personís past experiences may effect a personís response to stress (Anisman & Merali, 1999). Some characteristics of a stressor that may effect the reaction to it are: the ability to decrease or eliminate the stressor, the predictability of the stressor, how long the stressor lasts, when and how often the stressor occurs. Biological factors include age, sex, and genetics (Anisman & Merali, 1999). Stress from the environment can cause internal arousal that can have negative effects on health (Fernandez, 1998). From here on out, these negative effects will be referred to as stress symptoms. Stress symptoms are symptoms that appear before a stressor (when the stressor is expected), during, or after the stressor occurs as a result of ineffective coping skills (Breznitz & Goldberger, 1982). Fifty to eighty percent of all diseases are stress related in origin (Humphrey, 1986). Some medical experts believe that stress is the number one health and social problem (Fullerton & Ursano, 1997). Coping skills are used to decrease or eliminate the impact of stressors (Bittner & Carson, 1994). Some researchers have found that age is correlated with coping abilities. In one study, older children showed greater coping skills than younger children did. The researchersí attributed this to a greater impulse control (Bittner & Carson, 1994). Another study had similar findings (Atha & Staats, 1990). Their explanations for the correlation are: emotionality decreases with age; and, since they believe everyday hassles create more stress than major crises, the greater experience that comes with age increases a personís ability to evaluate the everyday hassles more realistically. Still, other researchers insist that the correlation between coping abilities and stress is a positive one. Anisman and Merali (1999) found in their research that neurochemical alterations are easily induced and take longer to return to normal levels in older rats. They claim that this could reflect less ability to adapt to stressors. Yet, Renee Solomon (1996) states, ďstress in not an inevitable consequence of old age.Ē Sex is a factor that effects stress levels as well. It has been found that 41% of females suffer psychological distress compared to 26% of males (Colman, 1996). Twice as many females have had at least one episode of depression than men (Mackin, 1995). One reason for this may be that females feel that they must excel at home and at work to be a success, whereas males feel that they must excel only at work. Though the responsibilities at home may be shared a male and female, most of the responsibilities are laid upon the female (Mackin, 1995). The purpose of this study is to see if a correlation exists between stress symptoms, sex, and age. I believe there will be a negative correlation between stress symptoms and age, and males will experience fewer stress symptoms than females.


The participants included students from Missouri Western State College and residents of Grandview Manor, a nursing home in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Additional participants were chosen haphazardly. There were 51 participants, 16 males and 35 females, ranging from 19 to 97 years of age.

A 20-item survey was used to evaluate how often the participants experienced certain stress symptoms (see Appendix A). The survey also asked for the participantís age and sex.

A 3 (age) x 2 (sex) within subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the frequency of stress symptoms for participants and their age and sex. The main effect for age was not significant (F(25,20) = 1.4, p = .223). The main effect for sex was also not significant (F(1,20) = .262, p = .614). Finally, the interaction was also not significant (F(4,20) = .564, p = .691). Thus, it appears that neither age nor sex has any significant effect on the frequency of stress symptoms.

The results of this study disagree with the findings of Bittner and Carson (1994), Atha and Staats (1990), Colman (1996), and Mackin (1995). The fact that this study consisted of half as many males than females may have contributed to the difference in the results of this study compared to past studies. Another contributing factor may have been that over half of the participants in this study were 25 years of age or younger. If the power of the study were to be increased, statistical significance may be found. Future researchers should avoid this error by ensuring their participants include a proportional number of males and females. Researchers should also safeguard against including too many or too few participants in any one age group. It is difficult to generalize the results of a study comparing age when there are only a few participants in an age group. Future research could provide useful information that could be used to treat people who suffer from extreme symptoms of stress.

Anisman, H., & Merali, Z. (1999). Understanding stress: Characteristics and caveats. Alcohol Research & Health, 23, 241-250. Atha, G., & Staats, S. (1990). Variations in expected affect in young and middle-aged adults. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 151, 429-441. Bittner, M., & Carson, D. (1994). Temperament and school-aged childrenís coping abilities and responses to stress. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155, 289-306. Breznitz, S., & Goldberger, L. (1982). Handbook of stress. New York: The Free Press. Colman, A. (1996). Stress. Youth Studies, 15, 7-9. Fernandez, M., & Mutran, E. (1998). Moderating the effects of stress on depressive symptoms. Research on Aging, 20, 163-188. Fullerton, C., & Ursano, R. (1997). Posttraumatic stress disorder: Acute and long-term responses to trauma and disaster. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc. Humphrey, J. (1986). Profiles in stress. New York: AMS Press, Inc. Mackin, J. (1995). Women, stress, and midlife. Human Ecology, 23, 20-25. Solomon, R. (1996). Coping with stress: A physicianís guide to mental health in aging. Geriatrics, 51, 46-52.

The following is a list of stress related symptoms. For each item, circle the frequency that you experience the symptom when you are under stress, if you suffer that symptom at all.

1. fatigue never rarely occasionally frequently always 2. anger never rarely occasionally frequently always 3. hostility never rarely occasionally frequently always 4. accident prone never rarely occasionally frequently always 5. tension never rarely occasionally frequently always 6. aggression never rarely occasionally frequently always 7. sleeping disturbances never rarely occasionally frequently always 8. headaches never rarely occasionally frequently always 9. nightmares never rarely occasionally frequently always10. nausea never rarely occasionally frequently always11. forgetfulness never rarely occasionally frequently always12. loss for words never rarely occasionally frequently always13. twitching never rarely occasionally frequently always14. frustration never rarely occasionally frequently always15. stuttering never rarely occasionally frequently always16. need for alcohol use never rarely occasionally frequently always 17. need for drug use never rarely occasionally frequently always18. depression never rarely occasionally frequently always19. despair never rarely occasionally frequently always20. increased emotionality never rarely occasionally frequently always

sex: ( ) male ( ) femaleage: __________

Submitted 11/29/2001 6:56:17 PM
Last Edited 11/29/2001 7:22:18 PM
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