Coping resource availability and level of perceived stress as predictors of life satisfaction in a cohort of Turkish college students

Coping resource availability and level of perceived stress as predictors of life satisfaction in a cohort of Turkish college students – Statistical Data Included

Carol Simons

This study investigated the effects of perceived stress and availability of coping resources to predict satisfaction with life among a cohort of college students in Turkey (N=172). Results indicate that both perceived stress and coping resource availability moderately predict level of life satisfaction. It was further found that the combination of coping resource availability and perceived stress is a better predictor of life satisfaction than either variable is when considered separately. Results also indicate significant correlations between life satisfaction with perceived economic well being, social support, and stress monitoring.

**********

As we begin a new century, college students worldwide are faced with increasing numbers of stressors. For example, technology has exponentially increased the amount of knowledge available. Sorting through, evaluating, and assimilating vast amounts of knowledge is particularly challenging to today’s college students. Prior to the widespread use of computers, resources of information were limited, making the college students’ job considerably less complex and arguably less stressful. Additionally, young adulthood is a time of flux; a time when people are called upon to make life affecting decisions, such as choosing a career, establishing a household, and choosing a life-partner.

Establishing the correlates of life satisfaction among college students is essential to inform efforts to improve quality of life for these young adults. Some constructs hypothesized to correlate with life satisfaction include social interaction (Gibson, 1986), personality (Costa, McCrae, & Norris, 1981; Heady & Wearing, 1989; McCrae & Costa, 1991), income and social class (George, 1990), health (Willits & Crider, 1988), religion (Koenig, Kvale, & Ferrell, 1988), and coping resources and perceived stress (Hamarat et al., 2001).

The impact of stress on life satisfaction has been substantiated by a number of researchers (e.g. Brown, 1988; Chang, 1998; Kent, Gorenflo, Daniel, & Forney, 1993; and Nowack, 1991). Chang’s (1998) research, for example, indicates that the amount of perceived stress among college students correlates with levels of depression and life satisfaction. Chang’s findings indicate that the more stress students experience, the lower their levels of life satisfaction. Chang’s research further found that the more optimistic the student, the greater the satisfaction with life.

One might question the reason for students’ differing levels of optimism. Perhaps optimism is affected by a student’s perception of his level of stress. Hamarat et al.’s (2001) findings indicate that perceived stress levels predict life satisfaction among American college students. Interestingly, Hamarat et al. found that for middle-aged and older adults, combining a measure of perceived stress with a measure of coping resource effectiveness provided a better predictor of life satisfaction than did perceived stress alone. For young adults in Hamarat et al.’s study, however, perceived stress alone was the best predictor of satisfaction with life.

While investigations of life satisfaction among college students have been conducted in other cultures (e.g., Lange & Byrd, 1998), previous studies have not tested the ability of coping resource effectiveness and perceived stress to predict college students’ subjective well being, or satisfaction with life as did Hamarat, et al. (2001) in the United States.

Using the same measures as Hamarat et al. (2001), the present investigation examined the relationships among perceived stress, coping resource availability, and satisfaction with life in young adults. Hamarat et al. assessed this relationship in North American participants, across three age groups, one of which was college students. The focus of this research, however, is on coping, stress, and life satisfaction among Turkish college students. Both separate and joint effects of perceived stress and coping resource availability upon life satisfaction were examined. It was hypothesized that the combination of coping resource availability and perceived stress would be better predictors of satisfaction with life than either variable would be alone.

The following research questions are addressed:

1. How well do coping resource availability and perceived stress predict satisfaction with life for Turkish college students?

2. Are the combined effects of perceived stress and coping resource availability better predictors of life satisfaction than perceived stress or coping resources are when considered separately?

The present study also examined the effects of a number of demographic variables upon life satisfaction. Differences along 12 coping dimensions were also investigated.

Method

Participants

The sample consists of 172 participants ranging in age from 19 to 35 (M age =21.24, SD=2.01). All participants were recruited from among students enrolled in a university in Izmir, Turkey. Demographic data are presented in Table 1.

Measures

A global measure of perceived stress, The Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983) measures the degree to which one’s life situations and circumstances are perceived as stressful. This measure calls for the individual to self-appraise level of stress, so the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) accounts for individual differences in the assessment of environmental demands. The PSS is a 14-item instrument which asks participants to respond to a series of statements designed to evaluate the degree of stress experienced. Items include such statements as: In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them? This appraisal based measure of stress was selected because current stress assessment researchers tend to favor such measures over checklist assessments. The PSS is an empirically established appraisal based index (Cohen, Kessler, & Gordon, 1995),very few of which measure global stress experience. The PSS has strong psychometrics with coefficient alpha reliabilities ranging between .84 and .86. The measure correlates with physical and depressive symptomology measures between .52 and .70, and .65 and .76, respectively.

The Coping Resources Inventory for Stress (Matheny, Curlette, Aycock, Pugh, & Taylor, 1987) was used to assess available coping resources. The Coping Resources Inventory for Stress (CRIS) consists of a total of 37 scores: an overall Coping Resources Effectiveness Score (CRE), 12 Primary scales, 3 Composite Scales, 16 Wellness Inhibiting items, and 5 validity keys. In the present study the 12 Primary scales and the overall CRE were used. Table 2 presents a description of the CRIS Primary scales. The CRIS scales yield high internal consistency reliabilities (r=.84 to .97; Mdn=.87; n=814) and test- retest reliabilities (.76 to .95 over a 4 week period; M=.86; Mdn=.87; n=34), as well as moderate to low intercorrelations (Curlette, Aycock, Matheny, Pugh, & Taylor, 1992).

The Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), is designed as a measure of global life satisfaction. Its focus is on global cognitive judgements of one’s life, allowing the participant to respond in terms of her own values. This scale was selected because of its proliferation in life satisfaction literature as well as for its superior psychometrics. Items on the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) are evaluated on a 7 point Likert scale, ranging from Strongly Agree (7), to Strongly Disagree (1). The SWLS includes such items as: The conditions of my life are excellent. The SWLS has strong internal reliability (.80 – .89), and moderate temporal stability (.64 to .84). This measure correlates with other measures of life satisfaction and subjective well being between .35 and .82 (Pavot & Diener, 1993).

A demographic survey was also included in this study. The demographic information requested included age, gender, family size, marital status, years of university experience, town size, and sense of economic well being.

Procedure

Test packets containing the three instruments used in this study were assembled for distribution. Each packet contained an informed consent form, the three measures, and the demographic questionnaire. The packets were always ordered in the same fashion (1) informed consent, (2) PSS, (3) SWLS, (4) demographic questionnaire, and (5) CRIS. Individual and procedural instructions for each instrument duplicated the test developers’ instructions. All testing materials were translated into Turkish from English, by a bi-lingual psychologist and back-translated from Turkish into English to assure that questions held the same meaning in both languages.

Results

Pearson r’s were computed to assess the relatedness between the PSS, the CRE, and the SWLS. Scores on the PSS correlated with scores on the SWLS, resulting in a Pearson r of -.61. High scores on the PSS are indicative of elevated stress levels, while high scores on the SWLS indicate high satisfaction with life. Therefore, according to these measures, as the level of perceived stress increases, the level of life satisfaction decreases for college students.

Scores on the CRE were correlated with scores on the SWLS using Pearson r. A Pearson r of .57 indicated a moderate correlation between the CRE and SWLS. According to this data, satisfaction with life increases as coping resource availability increases, resulting in a moderate to good predictability of life satisfaction from coping resources. A Pearson r of -.67 was found between the CRE and the PSS, indicating a strong negative correlation between coping resource effectiveness and perceived stress. The data affirms the use of either perceived stress or coping resource effectiveness to predict satisfaction with life.

Next, a regression analysis was computed to examine the joint effects of coping resource effectiveness and perceived stress as predictors of satisfaction with life. As Table 3 shows, 41% of the variance in satisfaction with life was explained by the combination of perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness. This regression analysis confirms the hypothesis that the combined effects of perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness serve as a better predictor for life satisfaction (r=.64), than either coping resource effectiveness (r=.57) or perceived stress (r= -.61) considered separately.

We then wanted to know which subtests of the CRIS were contributing to the prediction of satisfaction with life. We also wanted to know which of the demographic variables were contributing to the overall prediction of satisfaction with life. Table 4 shows the correlation matrix of all variables used in this investigation which significantly correlated with satisfaction with life. Based upon the results of the correlation matrix, we entered into a stepwise regression analysis the 12 sub-scales of the CRIS, the PSS, and the only significant demographic variable, Perceived Economic Well Being (PEWB). Results of this stepwise regression indicate that the model that significantly predicts satisfaction with life includes the variables perceived stress, perceived economic well being, and two CRIS sub-scale variables: social support and stress monitoring. These results are shown in Table 5.

PSS accounts for 37% of the variance in this model. The increment of change of r square by the addition of PEWB = .13 (F=42.31, p < .01). Addition of social support creates the change in r square of .02 (F= 7.03, p < .05). And, adding the final significant variable, stress monitoring, results in a change of r square of .01 (F=4.0, p < .05). All other variables were excluded from the regression model.

Discussion

The present investigation examined the ability of perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness to predict satisfaction with life. Joint effects of perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness were found to be significant predictors for satisfaction with life (r=.64), and account for 41% of the variance in the sample. This finding underscores the importance of looking at both perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness when assessing satisfaction with life for college students.

When perceived economic well being and the CRIS sub-scales were added to the equation in a step-wise regression, perceived stress accounted for 37% of the explained variance in satisfaction with life. Furthermore, perceived economic well being contributed 13% to the variance in satisfaction with life, and that variable, along with the coping resources of social support and stress monitoring (contributing 2%and 1% respecting) were the only significant predictors of satisfaction with life.

The results of this study support the hypothesis that the combination of coping resource effectiveness and perceived stress is a better predictor of satisfaction with life than either variable is when considered separately. This finding, differs from that of Hamarat et al. (2001) in that, among young American adults, perceived stress proved to be the major predictor of satisfaction with life. In their study, however, coping resources was an important predictor of satisfaction with life for both middle-aged and older adult participants. This discrepancy on the role of coping resources in predicting life satisfaction for college students in the two cultures is puzzling. Recently, Aysan, Thompson, and Hamarat (in press) found that coping mechanisms undergo rapid development during late adolescence and early adulthood among Turkish students. It may be that this rapid development generates mature coping skills which become significant determinants of Turkish college students’ well being, just as they are for middle-aged and older American adults. More research on this question will help clarify this issue. In regards to perceived stress, however, the findings of the current research, and of Hamarat et al.’s research, provide support to the research findings of Chang (1998) that, among college age young adults, perceived stress is significantly associated with lower levels of life satisfaction.

Although results of this research indicate that coping resource effectiveness and perceived stress levels can be used to predict life satisfaction among college students, this prediction might be performed with reasonable accuracy in a more timely and cost effective manner. This could be accomplished by employing a combination of perceived stress and perceived economic well being measures as predictors of satisfaction with life. Lange and Byrd’s (1998) findings also indicate that college students’ financial strains contribute to lower levels of psychological well being. That study assessed college students in New Zealand. Apparently, the association between economic stress and psychological well being, or life satisfaction, is not confined to Turkish students.

The findings of this study in relation to the importance of social support, concur cross-culturally with those of Demakis and McAdams (1994), Fagan (1994), and Tofi, Flett, and Timutimu-Thorpe (1996). Demakis and McAdams’ and Fagan’s research investigated the relationship between social support and life satisfaction among college students in the United States, while Tofi, Flett, and Timutimu-Thorpe’s participants were Pacific Islanders attending university in New Zealand.

The demographic variables of age, level of education, town size, marital status, and family size did not contribute significantly to the variance in satisfaction with life. Furthermore, gender differences in subjective well being were not found in this investigation, in agreement with previous research (Hong & Giannakopoulos, 1994; Meyers & Diener, 1995; Michalos, 1991).

The present study examined stress, coping, and life satisfaction using self-appraisal instruments maintaining strong psychometric qualities. In addition, the CRIS is one of the very few coping measures that is norm referenced. One concern, however, of the methodology is that response error is always a possibility when using self-report measures. A second consideration is that in order for true generalization to occur, a random sample of a large population of college students from both countries would be necessary. In Hamarat et al. (2001), and in the present study, both the American and Turkish samples of college students were composed of primarily middle class individuals. One must, therefore, be cautious in generalizing these findings to college students of other socioeconomic classes.

Despite the above limitations, the present investigation adds support to previous research which indicates that perceived stress and coping resource effectiveness predict satisfaction with life for college students. Further research is needed with college student populations in other countries.

It is hoped that these findings can be utilized by counselors to aid in design of interventions that might serve to enhance quality of life for college students. It is further hoped that these findings will stimulate further research on the relationship of coping resources and stress to satisfaction with life among young adults.

Table 1

Participant Characteristics

Demographics (N= 172)

n %

Gender

Male 39 22.9

Female 131 77.1

Age 19 12 7.0

20 62 36.3

21 46 26.9

22 22 12.9

23 11 6.4

24 10 5.8

25 3 1.8

26 1 .6

27 1 .6

29 2 1.2

35 1 .6

Years of University

1 1 .6

2 1 .6

3 107 62.9

4 50 29.4

5 7 4.1

6 4 2.4

Family Size

2 4 2.4

3 22 13.0

4 75 44.4

5 37 21.9

6 14 8.3

7 12 7.1

8 4 2.4

9 1 .6

Town size

Village 11 6.5

Town 32 18.8

City 127 74.7

Marital Status

Married 7 4.1

Single 161 94.7

Divorced/

Separated 1 .6

Widowed 1 .6

Perceived Economic Well Being

Bad 3 1.8

Not So Good 8 4.7

Average 94 55.0

Good 63 36.8

Very Good 3 1.8

Table 2

CRIS Primary Scale Description

Primary Scale Description

Self Disclosure: Measures the tendency to disclose freely one’s

feelings, faults, troubles, thoughts, and

opinions.

Self Directedness: Measures the degree to which one respects his

or her judgement and wisdom as a guide to

behavior.

Confidence: Assesses faith in one’s ability to cope

successfully with stressful life events.

Acceptance: Measures acceptance of self, others, and the

world.

Social Support: Measures the availability of family members and

friends who may act as buffers against stressful

life events.

Financial Freedom: Assesses the extent to which a person is free of

stress related to financial difficulties.

Physical Health: Measures the person’s overall health and wellness.

Physical Fitness: Measures one’s health practices especially

exercise.

Stress Monitoring: Measures one’s awareness of personal stress and

tension build-up.

Tension Control: Measures the ability to lower stress through

relaxation and thought control.

Structuring: Assesses the ability to organize and manage

resources such as time and energy.

Problem Solving: Measures the ability to resolve personal

problems of daily life.

Adopted from “The Coping Resources Inventory for Stress: A Measure of

Perceived Resourcefulness,” by K. Matheny, D. Aycock, W. Curlette,

and G. Junker, 1993. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49, 118. Adopted

with permission of the author.

Table 3

Regression Analyses of Perceived Stress and Coping Resource

Effectiveness on Satisfaction with Life in 172 College Students

Item B b

Perceived Stress Scale -.34 -.42 **

Coping Resource Effectiveness .12 .29 **

With both variables included

R .64

Adjusted [R.sup.2] .41

Note. * p<.05; ** p<.01.

Table 4

Correlations Between Scores of the PSS, the CRE, the PEWB,

the 12 Individual CRIS Sub-scales, and Satisfaction With Life

Scale for College Students (N = 172)

Measures Pearson Correlation

Perceived Stress Scale -.608 **

Coping Resource Effectiveness .565 **

Perceived Economic Well Being .527 **

Coping Resources Inventory for Stress Primary Sub-scales:

Self Disclosure .384 **

Self Directedness .343 **

Confidence .495 **

Acceptance .252 **

Social Support .471 **

Financial Freedom .393 **

Physical Health .331 **

Physical Fitness .191 *

Stress Monitoring .394 **

Tension Control .359 **

Structuring .471 **

Problem Solving .405 **

Note: * p < .05, ** p < .01

Table 5

Summary of Stepwise Regression Analysis Predicting Satisfaction With

Life

Variable Step Entered Partial R2 Model R2 F value Probability

PSS 1st .37 .37 99.03 .00

PEWB 2nd .13 .49 42.31 .00

SS 3rd .02 .51 7.03 .01

SM 4th .01 .52 4.00 .05

Note:

PSS = Perceived Stress Scale

PEWB = Perceived Economic Well Being,

SS = Social Support

References

Aysan, F., Thompson, D., & Hamarat, E. (in press). Test anxiety, coping strategies, and perceived health in a group of high school students: A Turkish sample. Journal of Geriatric Psychology.

Brown, D. R. (1988). Socio-demographic vs domain predictors of perceived stress: Racial differences among American women. Social Indicator Research. 20, 517-532.

Chang, E. C. (1998). Does dispositional optimism moderate the relation between perceived stress and psychological well being.’?: A preliminary investigation. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, 233-240.

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385-396.

Cohen, S., Kessler, R., & Gordon, L. (1995). Measuring Stress. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Costa, P. T., McCrae, R. R., & Norris, A. H. (1981). Personal adjustment to aging: Longitudinal prediction from neuroticism and extraversion. Journal of Gerontology, 36, 78-85.

Curlette, W. L., Aycock, D. W., Matheny, K.B., Pugh, J. J., & Taylor, H. F. (1992). Coping Resources Inventory for Stress Manual. Atlanta, GA: Health Prisims.

Demakis, G. J., & McAdams, D. P. (1994). Personality, social support and well-being among first year college students. College Student Journal, 28, 535-543.

Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larson, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction With Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49. 71-75.

Fagan, R. W. (1994). Social well-being in university students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23, 237-249.

George, L. K. (1990). Social structure, social processes, and social psychological states. In R. H. Bismark & L. K. George (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences (3rd ed., 186-204). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Hamarat, E., Thompson, D., Zabrucky, K., Steele, D, Matheny, K., & Aysan, F. (2001). Perceived stress and coping resource availability as predictors of life satisfaction in young, middle aged, and older adults. Experimental Aging Research. 27, 181-196.

Heady, B., & Wearing, A. (1989). Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: Toward a dynamic equilibrium model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 47, 731-739.

Hong, S, & Giannakopoulos, E. (1994). Effects of age, sex, and university status on life satisfaction. Psychological Reports, 74, 99-103.

Kent, J., Gorenflo, D., & Forney, M. (1993). Personal behavioral variables related to perceived stress of second year medical students. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 5, 90-95.

Koeing, H. G., Kvale, J. N., & Ferrell, C. (1998). Religion and well being in later life. The Gerontologist, 28, 18-28.

Lange, C., & Byrd, M. (1998). The relationship between perceptions of financial distress and feelings of psychological well-being in New Zealand university students. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 7, 193-209.

Matheny, K. B., Aycock, D. W., Pugh, J. L., Curlette, W. L., & Cannella, K. A. (1986). Stress coping: A qualitative and quantitative syntheses with implications for treatment. Counseling Psychologist, 14, 499-540.

Matheny, K. B., Curlette, W. L., Aycock, D. W., Pugh, J.L., & Taylor, H. F. (1987). The Coping Resources Inventory for Stress. Atlanta, GA: Health Prisms.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1991). Adding liebe and arbeir: The full five factor model and well being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 227-232.

Michalos, A. C. (1991). Global report on student well-being: Vol. 1. Life satisfaction and happiness. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Myers, D G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6, 10-17.

Nowack, K. M. (1991). Psychosocial predictors of health status. Work and Stress. 5, 117-131.

Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164-172.

Tofi, T., Flett, R., & Timutimu-Thorpe, H. (1996). Problems faced by Pacific Island students at university in New Zealand: Some effects on academic performance and psychological well being. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 31, 51-59.

Willits, F. K., & Crider, D. M. (1988). Health rating and life satisfaction in the later middle years. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences. 43, S172-S176.

CAROL SIMONS

Georgia State University

FERDA AYSAN

Dokuz Eylul University

DENNIS THOMPSON, ERROL HAMARAT, & DON STEELE

Georgia State University

COPYRIGHT 2002 Project Innovation (Alabama)

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group