Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

12-2014

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Committee Chair

Wilson, Richard W.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

LaJoie, A. Scott

Committee Member

Hughey, Aaron

Committee Member

King, Kristi

Subject

College students--Mental health; College students--Health and hygiene; Resilience (Personality trait); Stress (Psychology); Adjustment (Psychology)

Abstract

Stress is a pervasive issue among traditional college students; affecting their choice in health behaviors, and overall academic performance. What is not clear is why some students, despite the pervasiveness of stressors are able to do well in school and maintain/improve their health, while other students struggle to maintain their health and do poorly in school. Aaron Antonovsky theorized that when confronted with a stressor a person with a high sense of coherence (SOC) will be motivated to cope, believe the challenge is understood and that the necessary resources to cope with the stressor are available. Overall, Antonovsky theorized that SOC is a significant factor contributing to overall health. The purpose of this study was to measure sense of coherence (SOC) in a sample of traditional aged U.S. college students, measure its relationship to perceived stress, coping style, health behaviors, and grade point average, and determine if coping style serves as a mediator between SOC and the engagement in pro-health behaviors. A total of 380 college students aged 18-24 years of age completed a 59 item questionnaire measuring sense of coherence, dispositional coping, perceived stress, and health behavior engagement. Correlational, regression and mediation analyses were used to analyze the data. The results of this study revealed that within the study population, SOC had a statistically significant positive relationship with the engagement in pro-health behaviors, problem-focused coping, and GPA; and had a statistically significant negative correlation with perceived stress, and emotion-focused coping. The results of a multi-variable mediation analysis using a bootstrapping statistical resampling process showed that emotion-focused coping and problem-focused coping acted as a statistically significant mediator between SOC and the engagement in pro-health behaviors within the study population. Overall, within this study dispositional coping was a significant mediator in the relationship between SOC and health behavior engagement, students scoring higher in SOC used fewer emotion-focused coping styles, reported lower perceived stress and had significantly higher term and cumulative GPA’s than those students who scored lower SOC. Limitations and implications of this study are discussed.