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People define stress in many ways. They usually define it according to the events or situations that may occur in their life. Stress is defined as a mental or physical tension or strain (Websterís New World Dictionary, 1982). Stress is an individual phenomenon, unique to each person and setting (Hudd et al., 2000). Perlin has suggested that there are two major types of stressors: life events and chronic strains. Life events research considers the extent to which the accumulation of a series of experiences can create a stressful impact. Stress from chronic strain results in role overload; conflicting roles in an individualís life that produce competing, and potentially conflicting demands over time (Pearlin, 1985, as cited in Hudd et al., 2000).
One setting that can affect a person causing them stress is college. The transition from living at home where your parents take care of your needs to living away from home where you are now responsible for yourself. This transition alone can be a very stressful event or situation. Stress can have devastating consequences in individual cases and there is some suggestion that personality variables may play a part in stress-susceptibility (Linn & Zippa, 1984, as cited in Abouserie, 1994).
Self-esteem is a subject most people chose not to share with others, unless it is a person who perceives themselves very highly. A person cannot determine another personís self-esteem. But how a person accepts another person can affect a personís self-esteem. There are many factors that helps determine a personís self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as belief in oneself (Websterís New World Dictionary, 1982).
A research study conducted by Sandra Sassaroli in 2005 revealed a bi-dimensional perspective of self-esteem. This perspective was taken from a previous study performed by Tafarodi and Swann (1995). The first dimension is called self liking and is based on social feedback and social acceptance. This dimension is predominately affective and subjective in nature. The second dimension is called self competence and is based on the personal evaluation of oneís own performance. This dimension is more cognitive and objective.
Some people perceive themselves as highly and others may perceive themselves as worthless. A personís self-esteem can effect their personality making them not able to cope with life factors such as stress. Crocker (2002) suggests that the costs of seeking self-esteem extend beyond the self and those close to. In the mode of seeking self-esteem, life becomes a zero-sum game, with things that bolster a personís self worth coming at the expense of another personís self worth, and vice versa.
Studies have been conducted in an effort to discover findings of a correlation between stress and self-esteem. There is evidence of a positive correlation and a negative correlation of the two factors. The question is does stress really effect a personís self-esteem. Results from the Abouserie (1994) study show that students with high self-esteem are less stressed than those with low self-esteem. Self-esteem would therefore appear to have an important influence on studentsí stress levels. Conclusions also suggest that enhancing studentsí ability to cope with stress can be done by enhancing a studentsí self-esteem. However in another study results could not determine whether higher levels of stress lead to reduced esteem, or whether the pattern worked in the opposite direction (Hudd et al., 2000). Lundgren (1978) suggests that it is assumed that an important determinant of stress involves certain types of disjunctions in interpersonal relationships- specifically, discrepancies between the way in which individuals view themselves, the ways in which they perceive others as responding to them, and the ways in which others actually do evaluate them. These discrepancies are all characteristics of self-esteem.
The purpose of this study is to discover if there is a correlation between stress and self-esteem. For this study stress will be defined as strain over major life events such as job, life transitions from home to college, relationships, academics, and death. Self-esteem will be defined as how the individual perceives themselves in reference to self worth and performance.
Sixty four participants were used for this study. The participants were undergraduate students enrolled at Missouri Western State University. Participants included one introductory psychology class consisting of 48 students and one upper-level psychology class consisting of 16 students.
Each participant was given two types of surveys. Rosenbergís (1965) self-esteem survey was given to measure the participantsí self-esteem. Holmes and Raheís (1967) life event stress scale was used to measure the participantsí level of stress. The two surveys can be found in Appendixes A and B.
At the beginning of the experiment prior to the surveys being handed out participants were informed about the purpose of the study. Participants were informed that the purpose of the experiment was to discover if there is a correlation between stress and self-esteem. Participants were also informed that the purpose of the surveys. The Rosenberg (1965) self-esteem survey was used to measure each participantís self-esteem level. The Holmes and Rahe (1967) life event stress scale was used to measure each participantís stress level. Both surveys were then distributed out to each participant by the experimenter. Participants were instructed to fill out each survey honestly and thoroughly. The participants were given ten minutes to fill out the surveys. After the surveys were completed the surveys were collected by the experimenter. This procedure was done in both psychology classes.
The results from this study contradicted results found in previous studies. In the Abouserie (1994) study results showed a negative correlation between self-esteem and stress, indicating that students with high self-esteem are less stressed than are those with low self-esteem. The results of this study could be contradictive due to fewer participants than the Abouserie study. The Abouserie study consisted of 675 undergraduate students compared to the 64 participants from this study. In another study results showed the relationship between stress and self-esteem was strong and clear but it remains unclear whether higher levels of stress lead to reduced esteem, or whether the pattern work in the opposite direction (Hudd et al., 2000).
Crocker, J. (2002). The costs of seeking self esteem. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 597-615.
Holmes, T.H., & Rahe, R.H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213-218.
Hudd, S., Dumlao, J., Erdmann-Sager, D., Murray, D., Phan, E., Soukas, N., & Yokozuka, N. (2000). Stress at college: Effects on health habits, heath status, and self-esteem [Electronic version]. College Student Journal, 34, 217.
Lundgren, D.C. (1978). Public esteem, self esteem, and interpersonal stress. Social Psychology, 41, 68-73.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Sassaroli, S., & Ruggiero, G.M. (2005). The role of stress in the association between low self esteem, perfectionism, and worry, and eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 32, 135-141.
Websterí New World Dictionary (1982). Tennessee: The Southwestern Company.
Instructions: Below is a list of statements dealing with your general feelings about yourself. If you strongly agree, circle SA. If you agree with the statement, circle A. If you disagree, circle D. If you strongly disagree, circle SD.
1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself. SA A D SD
2. At times, I think I am no good at all. SA A D SD
3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities. SA A D SD
4. I am able to do things as well as most other people. SA A D SD
5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of. SA A D SD
6. I certainly feel useless at times. SA A D SD
7. I feel that Iím a person of worth, at least on an SA A D SD
equal plane with others.
8. I wish I could have more respect for myself. SA A D SD
9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure. SA A D SD
10. I take a positive attitude toward myself. SA A D SD
In the past 12 months, which of the following major life events have taken place in your life?
ē Make a check mark next to each event that you have experienced this year.
ē When you are done, add up the points for each event.
ē Calculate your score at the end.
Event Stress Score
___ Death of Spouse 100
___ Divorce 73
___ Marital Separation 65
___ Jail Term 63
___ Death of close family member 63
___ Personal injury or illness 53
___ Marriage 50
___ Fired from work 47
___ Marital reconciliation 45
___ Retirement 45
___ Change in family memberís health 44
___ Pregnancy 40
___ Sex difficulties 39
___ Addition to family 39
___ Business readjustment 39
___ Change in financial status 38
___ Death of close friend 37
___ Change to a different line of work 36
___ Change in number of martial arguments 35
___ Mortgage or loan increase 31
___ Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
___ Change in work responsibilities 29
___ Trouble with in-laws 29
___ Outstanding personal achievement 28
___ Spouse begins or stops work 26
___ Starting or finishing school 26
___ Change in living conditions 25
___ Revision of personal habits 24
___ Trouble with boss 23
___ Change in work hours, conditions 20
___ Change in residence 20
___ Change in schools 20
___ Change in recreational habits 19
___ Change in church activities 19
___ Change in social activities 18
___ Mortgage or loan decrease 17
___ Change in sleeping habits 16
___ Change in number of family gatherings 15
___ Change in eating habits 15
___ Vacation 13
___ Christmas season 12
___ Minor violations of the law 11
Calculate Your total score:__________
0-149 Low susceptibility to stress-related illness
150-299 Medium susceptibility to stress-related illness
300-and over High susceptibility to stress-related illness
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