The relationships among physiological and perceived stress, quality of life, self-care, and impairment in doctoral students
Peters, Bernadette M.
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The primary purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the relationships among the following variables: Physiological stress, perceived stress, quality of life, self-care, and impairment. Physiological stress was analyzed through the stress hormone cortisol in the participant's saliva, and was correlated with the other variables. All variables were examined in doctoral students from different Ph.D. programs and at different stages of their education at a large northeastern university. An email with the survey link was sent to the student list serves in multiple departments, and those who chose to participate were able to click on the link which sent them to the online portion of the study. The second part of the study consisted of participants giving three samples of saliva taken on three consecutive mornings. Results show significant correlations between all self-report measures, including perceived stress and health-related quality of life (HRQoL), self-care and impairment, and self-care and quality of life (QoL). Significant differences were found in the rank-ordered list of stressors participants were asked to report. Academic stress was found to be the highest ranked stressor for all respondents. The dynamic index of cortisol was found to correlate positively with QoL and HRQoL and negatively with impairment. No significant differences were found between perceived stress and program requirement or gender, physiological stress and gender or age. Significant correlations were not found between physiological stress and perceived stress, HRQoL, or self-care. Self-care was not found to be different by program. The results and implications found in this study highlight the essential need for stress-management and self-care practices in doctoral students to avoid physical and psychological problems, and the need for future stress-related research in this population.