Emory Report

March 27, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 26

Freshmen stress levels reach all-time highs


The class of 2003 is the most stressed out ever, according to a nationwide survey of students at more than 680 two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Things aren't all tense, though. For instance, three-quarters of this year's freshmen said they did volunteer work during their senior year in high school; smoking is down; and­­definitely good news for Emory professors­­University freshmen study more than twice as much as other freshmen throughout the country.

The fall 1999 survey (its 34th year) was conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and it polled more than 350,000 students at 683 institutions, including Emory.

Universities were broken down into several different categories: public, private and private hi-select (a subgroup that includes selective private schools such as Duke, Vanderbilt and Stanford, as well as Emory).

One of the most notable statistics uncovered by this year's survey was that a record-breaking 30.2 percent of freshmen nationwide feel "frequently overwhelmed by all I have to do." That's almost double the percentage from 15 years ago. Emory's freshmen ranked slightly higher at 31.2 percent.

"This is a reflection of an increasingly fast-paced society, made so by computers and other media," said UCLA assistant education Professor Linda Sax. "Students feel more competition­­that can be overwhelming."

A breakdown by gender shows a significant difference between women and men. Nationwide, 38.8 percent of women say they feel frequently overwhelmed, compared to 20 percent of men. Emory freshmen are even more sharply contrasted: 41.1 of women are overwhelmed, compared to 18.8 percent of men.

According to Sax, part of this difference could be explained by how women and men spend their free time. Emory women spend more time studying (71.2 percent of women studied at least six hours a week, 54.6 of men), working (34.3 percent of women worked at least six hours a week, 31.3 percent of men) and volunteering (88.3 percent of women volunteered at least one hour a week, 76.3 percent of men).

Emory men spend more time on leisure activities like exercising or playing sports (62.9 percent of men exercised at least six hours a week, 48.6 percent of women), socializing with friends (36.8 percent of men socialized 16 or more hours a week, 30.5 percent of women), partying (36 percent of men partied at least six hours a week, 27.5 percent of women), watching TV (35.1 percent of men watched at least six hours of TV a week, 22.2 percent of women) and playing video games (73.4 percent of men played at least one hour of video games a week, compared to just 19.9 percent of women).

"These findings suggest that women spend more time than men on goal-oriented and potentially stress-producing activities," Sax said.

Emory bucked national trends in some areas, such as embracing diversity. 74.1 percent of Emory freshmen said same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status (just 65.4 percent of all private university students agreed).

Emory also is more of a national institution. 67.3 percent of Emory freshmen travel more than 500 miles to Atlanta. The nationwide average for private universities is 33.8 percent; even for Emory's peer group, the percentage is 49.5 percent.

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