Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
September 30, 2020
1 min read

Personality type-tailored health education courses may reduce college students' stress

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Health education courses may change college students’ beliefs about stress if they address the nuances of certain personality traits, particularly neuroticism, according to study results published in American Journal of Health Education.

Jennifer Wegmann

"It appears that engaging in health education is beneficial in changing perceptions of stress for some students but not all — based on personality,” Jennifer Wegmann, PhD, of the department of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University in in New York, said in a press release. “For example, significant changes were elicited in students who scored high on the neuroticism scale, but no significance was shown for students on the extroversion scale. Neurotic students tend to be worriers with high anxiety. The findings of this research show how focusing on their health, in general, can change these typically high-stressed students' beliefs about the stress they experience."

Results of prior studies suggested that individuals may be able to change their stress mindsets, yet the mechanisms related to these changes remain unstudied. Wegmann and colleagues hypothesized that health education may serve as one such mechanism, and personality may impact stress mindset changes over time among students who participate in health education courses.

To test this hypothesis, the investigators conducted an online survey of 423 students enrolled in such courses. Participants rated the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements meant to assess their stress mindset and Big Five personality type data.

Results showed cross-level moderating effects of neuroticism, openness and conscientiousness on stress mindset change over time when students participated in health education courses. However, agreeableness and extraversion did not offer these effects.

According to Wegmann, change in stress mindset was not linked to a focus on stress and changing mindsets specifically, but rather to a focus on overall health and wellness.

"First, helping students develop a more positive or enhancing stress mindset has been associated with improved mental health, increased performance and productivity,” Wegmann said in the release. “Second, general health education courses are available to large numbers of students. There typically are few, if any, stress-specific courses offered on college campuses, and if they are offered, many are limited in student capacity."