Gender-specific stress tolerance rating in university students majoring in sports

Dr.Hab., Professor V.D. Povzun1
PhD, Associate Professor V.V. Apokin1
1Surgut State University, Surgut

Keywords: stress tolerance, stress, gender specifics, academic education.

Background. A high priority in the national educational system reforms is given to the education service quality and the active, healthy, successful and competitive professional specialist training goals, with a special emphasis on a few important acmeological aspects of the professional personality formation process including the individual stress tolerance [7, 14] as one of the key factors of an individual adaptability on the whole and social adaptability in particular [5]. This is the reason why the academic community is increasingly attentive to the students’ stress tolerance tests and analyses with a priority to the university sport populations known to be exposed to notably higher stresses [3]. The education, sport training and preventive programs for these academic groups shall be designed on a sport-sensitive basis so as to mitigate the personality de-adaptation risks and potential psychosomatic disorders [4]. We believe that such programs shall be also gender-specific since the bodily functionality reserves, adaptability rates and mental/ emotional responses and resources are widely different in the gender groups [6, 8, 9].

Objective of the study was to profile gender-specific stress tolerance versus the key personality, mental and psychosomatic qualities in the Surgut State University (SSU) students.

Methods and structure of the study. Sampled for the study were the 2nd and 4th year Surgut State University (SSU) students (about 100) majoring in different sports and having different sport qualifications, with the sample stress tolerance rated by the Y.V. Sherbatykh Stress Tolerance Test [13] that gives the means to rate the gender-specific stress tolerance versus the key personality, mental and psychosomatic qualities. Further details on the study logics, design and practical methods may be found in the relevant study report [11]. The test data were scaled for analysis on the following scales: Scale 1 designed to rate the special sensitivity to the factors beyond control, with the scores averaging 15-30 points; Scale 2 to rate the excessive anxiety with the tendency to complicate things in a stressful manner, with the scores averaging 14-25 points; Scale 3 to rate the exposure to psychosomatic diseases, with the scores averaging 12-28 points; Scale 4 to rate proneness to destructive stress-coping models, with the scores averaging 10-22 point; and Scale 5 to rate the constructive stress-coping behaviors, with the scores averaging 23-35 points.

Results and discussion. The resultant test data are summarized in Tables 1 and 2 hereunder.

Table 1. Tested stress tolerance rates, %

Categorized stress tolerance rates

Groups

Male group

Female group

2nd year

4th year

2nd year

4th year

High stress tolerance rate

50

25

-

35

Normal stress tolerance rate

50

63

75

50

Low stress tolerance rate

-

12

25

15

Table 2. Stress variation self-rates, %

Reported stress variations

Groups

Male group

Female group

2nd year

4th year

2nd year

4th year

Stress grown up

16

25

60

35

Stress remained the same

84

55

28

58

Stress fallen down

-

20

12

7

The study data and analyses have showed that on the whole the stress tolerance of the sample remained virtually the same for the academic study period [11] due to the significant transformations in every gender group, with the male and female group stress tolerance tested to somewhat sag and grow, respectively. It should be mentioned that generally the stress tolerance rates in the both groups were found to vary within the relatively wide range of normality, and excesses may be attributed rather to the negative expectations (i.e. fears of future uncertainties) that some specific current stressors. This means that the academic education conditions including the academic sports are associated with permanent albeit secondary stressors in the both groups [12] including the male group with its higher stressful expectations by the end of the academic study period.

Since the tests largely rated the gender-specific mental/ emotional stresses, it should be mentioned that they are known to depend on the emotional intellect variations and the relevant personality self-rates dominated in female groups by a higher emotionality [1]. Equally exposed to different situations and stressors and tested with generally the same physiological responses, the male and female groups notably differ in their interpretations of the emotions and, hence, stress exposure as dictated by their gender-specific roles, with the reasons for emotions, their expressions and control mechanisms depending on the gender standards/ roles cultivated in the upbringing process.

The higher stress exposure with age in the male group was unexpected for us to a degree since it is commonly perceived that androgynous individuals are less vulnerable to stressors due to their wider gender-specific roles [2]. It was found, however, that the strict gender-specific roles, mindsets and masculinity levels in the male group (and the high femininity levels the female group) may not always guarantee their mental wellbeing – and this fact was apparently reflected in our findings. The highly-feminine and highly-masculine types in the relevant groups were tested the least adaptable to the behavioral and stress-coping models running counter to or going beyond the limits of their gender-specific roles. In addition, the individuals tested with the strict limitations of the genders-specific roles were found least intellectual and least creative [2, 10]. On the contrary, the individuals with the relatively loose gender-role-dictated standards were tested with wider behavioral ranges and higher mental wellbeing rates [2]. We analyzed the test data using the above-mentioned six scales: see Table 3.

Table 3. Scaled personality, mental and psychosomatic components of the stress tolerance rates

Year

Scale 1 total

Scale 2 total

Scale 3 total

Scale 4 total

Scale 6 total

Total

 

Male group

2nd

25

16

13

12

35

34

4th

30

21

17

18

38

49

 

Female group

2nd

33

24

25

13

38

62

4th

28

23

17

13

32

52

The above componential analysis of the stress tolerance rates shows the same logic i.e. the stress tolerance notably grows in the female group and falls in the male group with age. It was concluded on the whole that the tests showed the sample stress tolerance being quite satisfactory. The total stress tolerance statistics of the sample in points were found to fall within the range of normality. The modest componential growths are attributable to some students’ beliefs that the stresses have grown up for the last three academic years; whilst the scaled personality, mental and psychosomatic components of the stress tolerance rates were found generally consistent with the above mentioned trend.

Conclusion. We found the test system highly beneficial for students’ stress tolerance rating purposes due to its convenience, high functionality, range and test data processing toolkit. It produces the overall mental state test rates and gives the means to effectively profile the stress-tolerance on an individual or group basis. The total stress tolerance of the sample was found to average within the normal range, with the gender-specific stress tolerance rates varying in the opposite ways i.e. the male and female group stress tolerance rates found to fall and grow, respectively, for the study period. This finding may be explained by the recent transformations in the gender-specific roles towards an androgynous type in the both groups.

The university management is recommended to take the above finding into consideration in its stress mitigation policies with a special attention to the fact that the falling stress tolerance in the male group is associated with the higher self-rated exposure to psychosomatic diseases. However subjective these perceptions may be, and however little is the growth in exposure, the stresses may still be detrimental for the group, particularly for the subgroup engaged in high-intensity physical trainings.

It should be also underlined that the percentage of senior students tested with low stress tolerance is still relatively high, with the finding falling in conflict with the traditional job- and sport-specific requirements to coaches and athletes. The stress tolerance data scaling analysis showed some subjectivism in the specific stressors self-rating data; although the test data and analyses may be still important for the education process design, management and academic progress test purposes.

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Corresponding author: apokin_vv@mail.ru

Abstracts

The study was designed to apply the Y.V. Sherbatykh Stress Tolerance Test to university students majoring in sports to profile their gender-specific stress tolerance versus the key personality, mental and psychosomatic qualities and academic education periods. The 2nd and 4th year Surgut State University (SSU) students (about 100) majoring in different sports and having different sport qualifications were sampled for the study. A questionnaire survey and tests produced  a wide range of gender-specific stress tolerance rates, with the picture somewhat complicated by the biased self-ratings of own stress tolerance by the students classified by stressors. The study data and analysis demonstrate the need for a comprehensive study of the students’ stress tolerance versus their motivations for education to offer new motivational models and tools with a special priority to the stress tolerance building aspect.