INTRODUCTION A college student’s life contains many important factors that may hinder or improve it. These factors include the following: student’s living situation, health in lifestyles, and of course academic performance. In the life of a college student there is a combination of all these factors. In living situations many sources of stress are found like roommates, suite mates, neighbors, or home environment. Stress can have various negative physical as well as psychological effects on a student. One of the various effects is reflected in a student’s health. Stress, along with other factors like, exercise, diet, drug or alcohol use, and sleep, may affect health. All of these factors could become a severe problem for any individual’s goals, including students. It has been recognized that the health of an individual influences more than just their physical well-being. It also influences academic performance. Academic achievement is extremely important for college students, as it is a main determinant of their future. In light of this, we came up with the following questions: How does stress associated with living situations affect college students? How do healthy lifestyles impact college students? How does stress of living situations and health relate to students’ academic performance? Past research had been done testing the relationship between health in lifestyles and academic performance (Field, Diego & Sanders, 2001). Other studies had attempted to research the way living environments affect academic performance (King, 1998). One study found a significant relationship between where college students resided (residence hall, sorority/fraternity house, apartments) and their academic performance (Blimling, 1999). This study’s sample consisted of college undergraduates. Their grades were compared to the students living in sorority/fraternity houses, at home with their parents, or in off-campus apartments. It was found that the students living in the residence halls performed better academically than sorority/fraternity house residents. Also, a small difference resulted showing that students living in residence halls did better than students living in off-campus apartments. Other research included Schrager (1986), which showed that living groups affected students’ academic performance. This study was performed on 36 fraternity houses and 18 male residence halls, using URES. The results showed that freshmen in the fraternity houses had high levels of academic achievement related with the emphasis and competition on academic achievement by the members of the fraternities. In other words, the freshmen’s academic achievements were satisfactory or unsatisfactory depending on the fraternity’ concerns and mentality on academics. The freshmen in the residence halls had a lower achievement level. This provided evidence that social environments did not affect students academically. Blai (1972) performed a similar study to the previously mentioned. He placed freshmen roommates in residence halls according tot heir high school grade point average. The students were divided by grade point averages, and were labeled “above-average”, “average”, and “below-average.” The freshmen students that were labeled “above-average” were placed with an “average” roommate. This resulted in the “average” students’ improvement on their academic performance. In the same way, the “above-average” students were placed with “below-average”, and the “below-average” students’ academic performance improved. This study shows that contrary to what was thought before, students roomed, and have the same level of academic ability develop better, is not true. As previously mentioned, health is another important factor on a college student’s academic performance. A recent study showed that the students with high levels of exercise had better relationships with their parents, less depression, were more into sports, less use or frequency of drugs, and higher grade point averages than students with low levels of exercise (Field, Diego, & Sanders, 2001). The results of the study last mentioned, concluded that healthy lifestyles affected academic performance along with other factors. For this reason, past theorists have stated that the mind and the body are indeed connected. Gruber (1975) developed this idea and performed a study on it. In this study lower school students were used as a sample. It was concluded that there was a significant improvement in children’s academic performance and exercise. This was confirmed when a physical education program was integrated into their curriculum. Also, in this study it was found that movements of the arms and legs add to the mental motor connection. Another study was executed on this area. The study was on academic performance and the overall well being by Wheeler and Magaletta (1997). They collected data on college students and their ailment in a period of a month. These ailments included cold, nausea, upset stomach, and such. These symptoms were all considered typical when individuals are suffering from stress. As a result, they were related to the pressures of academic achievement. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in levels of stress in a student’s living situation, healthy lifestyle, and their academic performance. This research project tried to investigate: a stress of a living situation, health of lifestyle affecting a college student’s academic performance. It is hypothesized that among college students, their inverse relationship between stress of living situations and academic performance, and there is a positive relationship between level of health of lifestyle and academic performance. It is further hypothesized that low levels of stress resulting form living situations and high level of health of a student’s lifestyle predict an optimal academic success.
METHOD Participants One hundred and fifty students attending Loyola University, New Orleans, both male and female served in our study in Spring 2004. All of the participants are 18 years or older. Most of the participants were required by some classes to fulfill research experiments. These participants were recruited through a posting of the dates the experiments were available or by researchers going to psychology professor’s classes and recruiting from there. Materials A survey was to be completed that consisted of two already develop surveys. A portion of the survey was the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983) adapted to specifically measure perceived stress of college student’s living situations. This first part of the survey contains 14 questions. In order to record student’s healthy lifestyles the Health Related Variable Survey (Trockel, Barnes, Egget, 2000) was adapted to measure exercise, diet, sleep, and drug or alcohol use. This was then followed by the last part of the survey which are four open-ended questions regarding their academic performance, such as current credit hours enrolled in.Design and Procedures This study was a correlational design. Once participants arrived at the study location, they were seated and were provided a basic introduction to the study and its purpose of examining college experiences and college lifestyles. There form of consent was to actually take the survey, however, for their records they kept a copy of the consent form. The participants were then handed the survey packet, which included the above-mentioned surveys. They were given as much time as they needed to fill out the survey, however it was not expected to take more than 30 minutes per participant. The participants were asked to not put their names on the survey. After they finished taking the survey they were debriefed. In the debriefing, the participants were explained the purpose of the study and what it consisted of. Any questions raised were addressed. The participants were thanked and allowed to leave.
RESULTS Out of the 120 participants, 92 were female while 28 were male. According to the responses given 68 of the participants stated that they lived in residence halls, 37 in off-campus apartments, 14 with their parents, and 1 in other. The mean GPA of the participants was 3.38 (SD = .496). The mean GPA for the students that lived with their parents, 3.09 (SD = .535), was negatively related to the students that lived in residence halls, 3.39 (SD = .531), or off-campus apartments, 3.471 (SD = .382). The mean number credit hours taken by the participants was 15.4 (SD = 2.028). The mean work hours of the participants was 8.179 (SD = 8.879). Results showed that there was a higher level of drug and alcohol use between students who lived in off-campus apartments, 2.22 (SD = 1.871) and those that live with their parents, .857 (SD = 1.713)(Table.1).
We hypothesized that among college students, there would be an inverse relationship between stress of living situations and academic performance. The relationship between stress scores and GPA ( r = -.164, p = .074) approached significance. The hypothesis that a positive relationship exists between level of health of lifestyle and academic performance was supported in regard to nutrition and drug and alcohol use ( r = .192, p< .05)( Table.2). Based on the ANOVA(Table.3), those in different types of living situations had different GPA’s (F = 3.107, p< .05). The drug and alcohol use also differed depending on the living situation (F = 8.467, p< .05). Post Hoc tests were done, and there was significant difference, regarding GPA, between the students that lived in off-campus apartments and students that lived with their parents (p= .039). Another finding was a significant difference between students in residence halls and students living in off-campus apartments ( p < .05), concerning alcohol and drug use. There was also a significant difference among students that lived in off-campus apartments and students that lived with their parents ( p = .015)(Table.4).
DISCUSSIONThe results of the study showed a possible inverse relationship between stress of living situations and academic performance. The hypothesis that among college students there would be a positive relationship between level of health of lifestyle and academic performance was supported. The relationship of exercise and academic performance is very similar to a study done by Field, Diego, and Sanders (2001). In their study high levels of exercise showed a relation with improvement in grade point averages among other factors. Their results showed more support for our results of our second hypothesis. Another study in relation to our second hypothesis is Gruber (1975). In this study, exercise and academic performance also had a similar positive relationship. The results from the first hypothesis disagree with Blai (1972), which showed that living situations related to academic performance. That study was done by placing the “average”, “above-average”, and “below-average” students as roommates. This led the “below-average” students placed with “above-average” students to improve. In other words, living situations related to academic performance in a positive manner, unlike our hypothesis. Blai (1972), shows a relation between living arrangements and academic performance, which was not found in our study. This study differed from ours in regards to the roommate’s performance, however living situations and academic performance were observed in both studies. The lack of support for the first hypothesis could be due to various limitations of the study. One of these limitations could have been the small sample size. Also, our failure to recruit more male participants could have limited the study greatly. The sample needed to be more diverse in order for the study to have validity. Another limitation could have been how the survey was adapted from the Perceived Stress Scale. The alterations to the survey may not have been as efficient and clear to the participants. For example, the questions may not have targeted the specific questions needed to be asked, or the questions could have been clearer. As a result, the answers may not have been accurate. However, the survey did cover all the areas that were being studied. It can be concluded that healthy lifestyles do relate to a college student’s life, such as attending classes, working, socializing, and interpersonal relationships. Health also relates to students’ academic performance. In future studies, stress in living situations could be further investigated. There are many ways to investigate stress in living situations. One way to do this would be to record the daily activities in different home-settings either in journals or videos. This would be a good description of the daily events and how the residents react to such events in their outside environments. The results from studies on stress in living situations are needed in order to be able to deal with the problem of low levels of academic performance due to stress. Findings about stressful living environments may influence boarding schools or universities to improve the process or roommate assignments, which would be more beneficial for the students. This would mean that the students would receive better grades, and better academic performance in general is a key element in a student’s college life. The results demonstrated that when nutrition and exercise are high, then academic performance is positively related also.
TABLESTable.1 Descriptive Statistics of Variables in a College Student’s Life N Mean Std. Deviation
Sleep residence hall 68 3.13 1.67 off-campus apt. 37 3.30 2.13 with parents 14 4.07 2.46 total 119 3.29 1.93
GPA residence hall 68 3.3924 .5313 off-campus apt 37 3.4708 .3817 with parents 14 3.0900 .5346 total 119 3.3812 .4988
Credit residence hall 68 15.368 1.956 off-campus 37 15.622 2.253 with parents 14 14.929 1.817 total 119 15.395 2.031
Wrkhrs residence hall 68 7.397 8.497 off-campus apt 37 9.338 9.928 with parents 14 9.429 9.874 total 119 8.239 8.891
Stress residence hall 68 1.5357 .5587 off-campus apt 37 1.6602 .6806 with parents 14 1.8776 .6744 total 119 1.6146 .6173
Exercise residence hall 68 2.3529 1.7515 off-campus apt 37 2.5541 1.4471 with parents 14 2.2500 1.6842 total 119 2.4034 1.6446
Nutrition residence hall 68 4.2914 .8290 off-campus apt 37 4.3292 .1.0040 with parents 14 3.9156 .7652 total 119 4.2590 .8822 Table.1 (continuted) Table.1 N Mean Std. Deviation DrugAlc residence hall 68 1.0000 1.2591 off-campus apt 37 2.2162 1.8712 with parents 14 .8571 1.7133 total 119 1.3613 1.6206
Table.2 Correlations of the variables in a College Student’s Life Sleep GPA Credits Work Hrs Gender Stress ExerciseSleep Pearson R 1.000 Sig. –GPA Pearson R 0.042 1.000 Sig. 0.650 Credits Pearson R 0.123 0.342 1.000 Sig. 0.180 0.000 –WrkHrs Pearson R 0.152 -0.195 0.011 1.000 Sig. 0.098 0.032 0.098 –Gender Pearson R 0.052
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