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Worry Domains, Perceived Stress and Social Anxiety Among Tertiary-Level Students in New Zealand

Contemporary research into the health concerns of students is sparse, particularly in New Zealand. Overseas literature indicates that students in tertiary education institutions may be at increased risks for physical health problems, stress-related syndromes and emotional dysfunctions. Of particular concern are anxiety disorders as, in addition to their negative impact on quality of life, they are associated with impaired academic performance and poorer educational outcomes. Skilled, educated individuals are a social asset and it is therefore surprising that so little interest has been paid to the ways in which involvement with the tertiary education impacts on student welfare and anxiety levels. As a first step towards redressing the lack of health data for tertiary populations, this thesis investigates aspects of anxiety among students at a New Zealand university. The primary research aims were to establish an estimate of the levels of anxiety experienced by students and to outline the requirements of tertiary study that students perceive to be the most anxiety-inducing. To achieve the former, students (n = 1,082) were invited by e-mail to participate in an online psychometric survey; to explore the latter, discussion groups were arranged wherein students (n = 18) were asked to talk about their anxiety-related experiences. Anxiety has many forms and can be conceptualised in a number of different ways. In recognition of the diverse nature of tertiary study, it was decided that a broad framework would be needed to thoroughly investigate the ways in which it might manifest in tertiary student populations. Thus, a tripartite conceptualisation was constructed, viewing anxiety in cognitive, physiological and interpersonal terms. Specifically, the study assessed worry, stress and social anxiety among tertiary students and invited participants to comment on personal experiences in each of these areas. Comparing study data to norms for student populations in America revealed that New Zealand tertiary students report greater levels of worry, stress and social anxiety than their American counterparts. Within-group comparisons were made as a function of student gender, age, school of study, ethnicity and birth status. Significant differences on at least one survey measure were noted within each of these categories, with the exception of school of study. The possible implications of and explanations for these findings are discussed.
Type of thesis
Richards, J. D. (2008). Worry Domains, Perceived Stress and Social Anxiety Among Tertiary-Level Students in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2466
The University of Waikato
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