WCM-Q researchers investigate student stress at universities in Qatar
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have found elevated levels of stress among students studying at universities in Qatar.
The researchers of the Institute for Population Health (IPH) at WCM-Q surveyed 370 students of 44 different nationalities enrolled at various universities in Qatar. The study found that elevated stress was significantly associated with being female, country of origin, residing off-campus, eating when bored, lack of self-discipline, disturbed sleep, and low levels of life satisfaction. In addition, students with above-average stress scores were found to be more than twice as likely to report difficulty concentrating on academic work than students with lower stress scores.
Titled ‘Factors associated with perceived stress in Middle Eastern university students’, the study has been published in the Journal of American College Health and acknowledges that college and university students face a unique set of circumstances that can lead to increased stress. These include financial pressures, living independently for the first time, academic pressures, a need to make new friends and, often, the stress of moving to a new city or country.
The students completed a self-administered, validated questionnaire for the study. In addition to the questions about perceived stress, the questionnaire also asked about demographics, diet, exercise, sleep habits and quality, and smoking.
The study found that female students had significantly higher stress levels than male students, and that students from other Eastern Mediterranean region countries, Africa and Asia had higher stress levels than students from Qatar. Higher stress levels were associated with low intake of fresh fruit juice, high intake of soft drinks, diminished levels of physical activity, irregular eating patterns, emotional eating, poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep and short sleep duration. Crucially for students, elevated stress levels were found to be significantly associated with trouble concentrating and staying awake in class.
The study noted that stress-reduction and self-compassion interventions, self-support systems, well-being campaigns, and mentorship and buddy programs can strengthen students’ coping skills to manage stress. Counseling and mental health services should also be easily accessible to students.
The authors of the study were Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Assistant Dean for the IPH, Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, Vice Dean for Student Affairs-Admissions, Population Health, and Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Amit Abraham, Instructor in Population Health Sciences, and Dr. Karima Chaabna, Instructor in Population Health Sciences, all members of the IPH at WCM-Q. Dr. Albert B. Lowenfels of New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York and Dr. Patrick Maisonneuve of the European Institute of Oncology, Milan also contributed to the study, as did WCM-Q students Abdallah Tom, Hania Ibrahim, Tasnim Mushannen and Wajiha Yousuf.
The study can be read in full here.