Honors Theses


Erin O’Mara, Ph.D.



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Honors Thesis


Academic workload and extracurricular involvement can be sources of stress for college students. Academic workload is characterized as the student's major, course work and future graduate school and/or career path plans. Extracurricular involvement can pertain from anything to intramural sports to being the President of a student organization. The current research sought to investigate changes in mental and physical health over a semester by examining physiological and perceived stress levels in college students, in conjunction with academic workload and extracurricular involvement. Previous research found an association between stress and physical health (Peer, Hillman, Van Hoet 2015). Studies have shown sympathetic nervous system activation due to stressors in people’s lives (Conley & Lehman, 2012). Mental Health has also been shown to decrease when stress is overwhelming in the lives of college students (Murff, 2005). The goal of the present work was to examine academic workload, extracurricular involvement, physiological stress, perceived stress, and mental and physical health over the course of the semester to better understand how they are associated. Using a longitudinal design, participants completed measures of mental and physical health, perceived stress, as well as academic workload and extracurricular involvement at the beginning and end of the fall semester. Physiological stress was assessed at each time point by collecting a saliva sample from participants in order to measure the hormone cortisol.

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This item is protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) and may only be used for noncommercial, educational, and scholarly purposes


Undergraduate research



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