The Causes Of Stress In High School Students Psychology Essay


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High school is a major time in a students life, where they learn who they are and what they are going to do in life Suldo, Shaunessy, Thalj, Michalowski, and Shaffer, 2009. During this time students will experience stress on several degrees, from academic stress to stress on their personal life (Mates and Allison, 1992). In a study by Sulaiman, Hassan, Sapien, and Abdullah (2009) it was shown that almost all students show stress to some degree. Stress was broken down in the this study by looking at specifically academic stressor such as school work, marks, student futures, and by looking at personal stressors such as extracurricular activities, personal image, and relationships. The purpose of the study is to determine which of the stressors above cause the most stress in high school student

Students in high school are people going through a very stressful phase of changing from a child to an adult (Sulaiman, Hassan, Sapien, and Abdullah, 2009). Students deal with stress on a day-to-day basis, and the stress can be positive, but can be negative and lead to damages. Some common causes of stress in a high school student's life are things like academic achievements, extracurricular, relationships with peers, friends, parents, and sometimes even romances (Hart). High academic stress, meaning stress of school and marks, is something very common for high school students. When students take that stress positively, and look at the schoolwork as a challenge, the students will be more successful in learning and achieving their academic goals (Whitman, Neal). However when students take the stress negatively, the will feel helpless and lost, and ultimately will not achieve their academic goal (Whitman, Neal). This negative academic stress can even cause students to plagiarize in order to get the mark they are looking for (Palmer, 2005). Pressure from family or peers to achieve are also factors in the academic stress that students experience (Palmer, 2005). However there are affects of high stress that are far worse than cheating on paper. Some students with high stress may turn to other methods to deal with their stress. Some examples of these methods are substance abuse (drugs, alcohol), eating disorders (over-eating, under-eating) or even thoughts of or attempts of suicide (Bradley, 2002). Students who are unable to cope with stress will develop tension in their lives, and if this stress is not confronted while the student is still young, the constant stress may lead to future mental problems (Sulaiman, Hassan, Sapien, and Abdullah, 2009). Modern society only adds to the stress of a student. Students are more worried about their futures and marks, and now with post-secondary programs becoming more competitive, students are more stressed in order to achieve. If they fail to get into the post-secondary program of their interest, then there will be more stress in not knowing what to do next (Mates and Allison, 1992). Overall, stress can be a good thing if dealt with correctly. If stress is not handled correctly, it will only be harmful.

Methodology and Limitations

All of the data was obtained by having students of Iroquois Ridge High School answer a survey. All of the surveys were answered on a computer. The sampling method used to collect data was the convenience sampling method. Some of the samples were found in the school library, and were asked to complete the survey. The survey was sent to 15 people via facebook. In the message to these people, that contains the survey, the 15 people were asked to try to send the survey to student of grades 9 and 10. The reason that this was asked is because there was few grade 9's and 10's in the library and on the researcher's facebook. This leads to the first data limitation. Due to the fact samples were found by either asking people on facebook, or asking people in the library, where there were few grade 9's and 10's, not much data for grade 9 or 10 students was collected. The only way that was attempted was by asking other people to send the survey to any grade 9's or 10's, with little result. The first few questions were to gain general information on subjects, asking gender, age, and average on most recent midterm. The following six questions all asked how stress that the subjects felt about certain things. These things were how stress the students are about schoolwork, their mark, their future, extracurricular, their image, and relationships. All of these questions had a scale from one to five to show the extremity of the stress they are feeling, with one being no stress and five being very stressed. The questions on the survey lead to some more limitation in the data, specifically the question asking about the students most recent midterm mark. The range of that question was not uniform, causing a potential source of bias. For the scale of the question, look at question three of appendix A. The last questions' scale is inconsistent with the rest, going up by 20% rather than 9%. A major limitation with the data collected and the sampling method is that the people who answered the survey may have not answered honestly, altering the results. The survey was answered via google docs, so when people filled the survey, the results were automatically inserted into a spreadsheet. After collecting all of the data, it was then analyzed. First all of the one-variable statistics with the total population were calculated. Afterwards, all of the data was correlated in order to find any possibly strong correlations. After correlating, the strongest correlations were taken and regression models were made to see how the data is dispersed. Next, the data was further analyzed by analyzing the results of each gender. One variable statistics were calculated for the results of each gender, and then the averages were graphed to find anything of interest. There are a few major limitations evident in the data collected. The first of which is that there were very few grade 9 or 10 students surveyed, meaning that it was impossible to analyze the results for each grade due to the statistical discrepancy that would be present. The second major limitation is that the majority of the students surveyed were in the mark range of 70-79% and 80-100%, meaning that very little data was represented be students of the lower average ranges. This makes it impossible to analyze the data from each mark range due to the statistical discrepancy that would be present.

Results and Discussion

General Results

When the survey population was analyzed it was found that of the six causes of stress on the survey, the most one that was found to cause the most stress was stress about high school students futures. In the survey and in the analysis, 1 means low or no stress, and 5 means high stress, and 3 being neutral. The average level of stress experienced towards their futures 4.2 out of 5, meaning that high school students are fairly stressed about their futures. The reason for this is likely because a high school student is probably concerned on what will become of them after high school, what they will do, what happens when if they fail. This would definitely cause students to stress. Out of the six questions, the causes of stress that students are most stressed about in general are their futures, their schoolwork, and their grades. The other three causes of stress were not stressed about very highly. The cause of this is likely because students are under the pressure to achieve in school, and student know that what they do in high school will affect their future. This means that the students surveyed, and students in general realize that it is more important to stress about academics rather than personal issues. The three causes of the higher stress also have medians and modes of 4 and a mode of 5 for stress of a student's future. What this shows is that over half of the students surveyed feel a higher stress towards these three things, and the most frequently occurring number representing the amount of stress being experienced is 5 regarding stress about the future. In respect to the limitations of the data, it is also possible that these results are influenced by the bias in the data collected. Due to the fact that the large majority of the students surveyed had midterm averages of 70% - 100%, it is safe to assume that the majority of these students are pursuing post-secondary education, such as college or university. In order to be accepted by schools, having high grades 11 and 12 marks will help. Almost all of the students happen to be in grade 11 and 12, and will be under stress to achieve higher marks so that these schools accept them. The junior grade marks have very little influence on whether a school accepts them or not, meaning that students of the lower grades may not be as stresses as students in the senior grades. This bias may have caused the results found about what stresses students the most.

(Figure 1: A graph showing the average amount of stress experienced for each of the six causes of stress, with the higher up on the graph meaning the more stressed experienced.)


After correlating the data of the population, the strongest correlation found was that stress towards schoolwork and stress towards marks, with a correlation of 0.76. The explanation of this strong positive correlation is likely due to the fact that schoolwork affects marks. A student who stress about their marks is likely also stress about their schoolwork, which directly influences their marks. However, the bias of the data may also be an influence on this result, due to the same reasons as mentioned above.

(Figure 2: A scatter chart showing the correlation of the stress towards schoolwork and the stress towards marks. The R-value showing that the data is all fairly close to the trend line.)

Gender Results

The data was then analyzed further by comparing the stress of both genders of the study. Both genders show a similar pattern, with the students futures being the largest cause of stress, followed by the academic stressors (schoolwork, marks). This is likely caused by the same reasons explored in the first paragraph, as well the influence of the biases which were explored as will in the first paragraph. An interesting finding was that on average, the females surveyed were more stressed for almost every cause of stress on the survey than males. The females were more stressed about their futures, marks, schoolwork, and image than males, and had very near the same amount of stress for the other two questions. The difference in stress about the future was minimal (4.3 females, 4.1 males) but on the other three causes of stress they were larger. Looking at the medians and modes shows that with males, both were three in regards for schoolwork, and four in regards of future and marks, whereas in females, both were four in regards to schoolwork, median four and mode five in regards of marks, and both were five in regards of their future. The average stress towards schoolwork in males (2.9) was also much lower than that of females (3.8), and there was a 0.5 difference with marks. What was most surprising was stress about image. The median and mode for females were both 3, but in males it was 3 and 1, and a different in the average of 0.6. What this data may show is that in general, females care more about their academics then males, as well as their image. These results may also be skewed due to statistical discrepancy. There were 17 participants of each gender, which is not a lot of data for each gender. This lack of data may have had an effect on the results of the analysis.

(Figure 3: This graph shows and compares the average amount of stress experienced by each gender toward the six causes of stress that were on the survey.)

Summary of Results

After all of the analysis, what the data is telling is that the biggest cause of stress in high school students is their future. What was also discovered is that in general, females experience more stress than males, meaning that they likely care more than males, on average. However, these results may have also be influenced by biases in the data such as the lack of diversity in the sample population, and in the analysis of stress in males and females, the lack of data for each gender.

Future Works

If this study were given more time and resources, it would be possible to further analyze the subject than the analysis in this study. The most important problem to address would be to fix the limitations in the data. The limitations in the data collected was that amount of students from each grade, and average midterm mark range, was not diverse. The majority of the students were from grades 11 and 12, and the majority had midterm averages from 70% to 100%. In order to fix this, the sampling method would have to be changed. Instead of a convenience method, a stratified or clustered method would be much more effective, where a certain number of students from each grade will complete the survey. As for the average mark limitation, there isn't much that can be done about it. A larger sample size would give more diverse result, but the fact is that most of the student in the school have higher averages (70% to 100%), so there will always be less students with lower averages, and very few with a failing average (under 50%). Another issue that would have to be addressed is some of the bias in the survey. In question three one of the options are 80% to 100%, which is not in the same scale as the other questions. This question will have to be spilt-up into two options of 80% to 89% and 90% to 100% in order to remove the bias. In the future, in order to ensure that the data and the analysis are more accurate, there are a few things that can be done. One would be to have a larger sample size, because more data means more accurate results. It would also be important to have enough people from each grade, each gender, and maybe even the two combined, to be able to analyze these aspects individually without statistical discrepancy. It may be possible to get large an enough sample from each range of average marks, but that would likely be much more difficult. One could add more causes of stress to analyze rather than the six in this study, or add more questions asking on how this stress affects you, or why do you think this stress is occurring, in order to determine how the stress affects students, not just what is the most stressful for students. Adding more general aspect (such as gender or age) to analyze may also help find some interesting results.


The biggest cause of stress amongst the sample of Iroquois Ridge high school was stress about the students futures. It was also found that in general students are stressed more toward the academic aspect of their life (such as schoolwork and marks) rather than the personal aspects of their lives (such as personal image and relationships). The strongest correlation of the data found showed that stress toward schoolwork and stress towards marks have a high positive correlation (0.76). The probable cause of this is that the work done in school directly affects your mark. When analyzing the data for males and females. It was found that females are generally more stressed in males except for stress towards extracurricular and relationships, they were equally as stressed. The analysis shows that it is likely that women just care more, and stress more than men. These results may have been skewed by some of the limitations of the data. In the sample, there were mostly students of grades 11 and 12, with averages of 70% to 100%, which means that the total sample population was not very representative of the school's population. In the analysis of each gender statistical may have played a role in the results due to the fact that each gender did not have enough data on their own to analyze without some unintended effect on the results. After the analysis and after examining the limitations and biases in the data and their effect, it can still be concluded that in IRHS high school students, we see that the futures of the future of the students, as well as their academic are what's most stressful in their lives.

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