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Good To Know: Are High Performers More Stressed Out?

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Who report more stress: low or high achieving students?

stress, performance, low and high achieving students, anxiety, depressionDo you moderate your envy of better performing colleagues or fellow students by telling yourself that they are probably more stressed out than you are? And can you sometimes be jealous of the always deadline-missing ones, because they are probably leading a way more laid-back life and just getting away with it? Then you got it all wrong, according to the following study.

A study in Malaysia investigated associations between student’s performance and their levels of reported stress, anxiety and depression with the so called Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). The researchers found significant differences between low and high achievers on all these three aspects of psychological well-being.

The low performers drew the short straw. On top of to their receiving lower grades, they were more often suffering from depression, anxiety and stress. The mean score for depression of low-achieving students was for example 1.48 compared to 0.49 for high-achievers. Their mean score for anxiety (1.68) and stress (1.66) was also significantly higher than that of the better performing students, who scored 0.64 for anxiety and 0.60 for stress).

The researchers were not surprised by these findings. They already hypothesized that depression, anxiety and stress would lead students to perform worse than their more mentally healthy counterparts. This conclusion is a bit too simple, though. Mental problems not only affect performance, it will probably also work the other way around. And of course we can think of numerable other aspects that could be influencing both the student’s performance as well as their mental health.

Photo: Flickr, tokyoexpressway

Source: Aris Safree & Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifli (2011). Differences in depression, anxiety and stress between low- and high-achieving students. Journal of Sustainability Science and Management

stress, performance, low and high achieving students, anxiety, depression

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  • Maggie

    Grades and stress levels seem to have a negative correlation. As we learned in chapter 1 of psychology, a negative correlation is one where the two variables move in opposite directions. As the students’ grades drop, their stress levels increase. As their stress levels decrease, their grades get better. However, correlation does not necessarily indicate causality because there could be other factors involved; the stress levels do not necessarily determine the grades, but the two do seem to be related.