Results of the 2006 Survey of Student Well-Being, presented in the Gowen Room in Wilson Commons last Tuesday, described UR students’ psychological states and stress levels, compared against students from seven other universities.

Staff from University Health Services attended the presentation, which was given by Janis Whitlock, Ph.D., a researcher from Cornell University whose interest in nonsuicidal self-injury led her to conduct the study.

According to Whitlock, psychological distress was an important aspect of the study. On average, 6.1 percent of students experience some form of psychological stress.

At UR, 74.4 percent showed no signs of distress, 21.7 percent showed somewhat elevated signs of distress and 4.9 percent of the reported cases showed high psychological distress. There were no significant differences among the different groups (males, females, etc.) that responded to the survey.

The survey also measured academic stress. The average for all schools in the survey was 6.48 on a scale from 1-10. UR was close to the average with a 6.2 rating. Nearly all students that scored high on psychological stress also scored high on academic stress.

It was explained that academic stress might trigger psychological stress in vulnerable individuals, but that the two are not necessarily linked.

UR was one part of the eight schools involved in the research project, which included several Ivy League schools and public universities.

While the presentation focused on the results of the study, Whitlock also had a section on nonsuicidal self-injuries, the signs of them, reasons why people injure themselves and possible ways to approach the problem.

The presentation began with an explanation of the reasons for the Web-based study and some of the methods used in the study. According to the data, out of the 3,950 randomly sampled students at UR, 1,330 participated. This group represented all the different segments of a population with the small sample bias that there were slightly more women than men surveyed.

The results were then presented in graph form to compare UR to the other schools in the study.

Whitlock discussed some common issues that may contribute to psychological stress in students at UR. The survey reported that 20 percent of students were found to abuse alcohol. Males are most likely to abuse alcohol at 25.6 percent, compared to females at 15.8 percent. Caucasians were found to have the highest percent of people to use alcohol excessively at 25.6 percent.

Eating disorders were reported in 24.1 percent of UR students, with females at 30.5 percent and males at 14.8 percent. Sixty percent reported high life satisfaction, with no subgroups varying much from this mean.

Students reported a “high capacity to cope” 75.7 percent of the time. The average amount of students in the total population that reported at least one incident of nonsuicidal self-injury was 14.9 percent. Also revealed in the graph, 12.5 percent of UR students who took the survey had suicidal thoughts and 2.7 percent had attempted suicide.

“We’re working on a way to make a Web-based intervention for people who might not feel comfortable seeking help,” Whitlock said.

Whitlock also discussed a survey finding that concerned sexual orientation. The survey found that students who reported being “bisexual/questioning” or “gay/lesbian” showed higher percentages of suicidal thoughts and tendencies. The percentages for these groups were especially high for females.

Part of Whitlock’s presentation focused on the problems of nonsuicidal self-injuries. Whitlock explained NNSI as “something that overwhelms the person’s capacity to cope.” The average age of self-injury is 15 or 16 years. NSSI is not an official disorder as specified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, a mental disorder handbook, which, according to Whitlock, makes it harder to treat.

Maystrovsky is a member of the class of 2009.

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