The Impact of Worry on College Students

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Dr. Lindsey Root Luna

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College-aged students are at an increased risk for worry compared to older adults (Brose, Scheibe, & Schmiedek, 2013). Worry in college students may not pose an immediate threat to health; however, long-term worry has been linked with reduced physiological flexibility, posing a threat to cardiac health and mortality (Fisher & Newman, 2013). In the current study, we are investigating worry in college students. By determining the domains college students worry about, and how the worry manifests itself, we will be better equipped to assist this population with their worries. Participants (N=89) were recruited from Hope College. The participants completed individual difference measures before the induction to assess trait measures. A two-minute pre-trial baseline preceded a two-minute worry induction. Heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, heart rate (HR), skin conductance, cardiac impedance, facial electromyography (EMG), trapezius EMG, and respiration were monitored. After the worry induction, the participants rated their worry. Finally, participants filled out a questionnaire asking about habits and substances that could potentially impact physiology. We expect inducing worry will produce an aroused physiological state. Therefore, we expect a normal worrier to have reduced HRV, higher blood pressure, and increased HR during a worry induction than at baseline, analyzed using a within-subjects ANOVA. Qualitatively, we expect college students to report mostly self-oriented worries. Finally, we anticipate individual difference variables (i.e., trait worry, mindfulness, hope, gratitude) will moderate the impact of the worry induction. Specifically, we expect high-worriers to have lower HF-HRV and higher HR during the worry induction than during the baseline. These results will reveal the nature and mechanisms of worry within college students. This will promote the development of treatments, which could in turn reduce the risk of developing worry-related psychological disorders and negative cardiac consequences.

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