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Stress and Depression in Students: The Mediating Role of Stress Management Self-efficacy

Sawatzky, Richard G.; Ratner, Pamela A.; Richardson, Chris G.; Washburn, Cheryl; Sudmant, Walter; Mirwaldt, Patricia

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e31823b1440

Background: The prevalence of mental health issues appears to be increasing. Stress that leads to depression may be mediated if people believe that they have the wherewithal to manage it.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which the relationship between adverse stress and depression is mediated by university students’ perceived ability to manage their stress.

Method: Students were sampled randomly at a Canadian university in 2006 (n = 2,147) and 2008 (n = 2,292). Data about students’ stress (1 item), depression (4 items), stress management self-efficacy (4 items), and their demographics were obtained via the online National College Health Assessment survey and analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and latent variable mediation modeling.

Results: Greater stress management self-efficacy was associated with lower depression scores for students whose stress impeded their academic performance, irrespective oftheir gender and age (total R2depression = 41%). The relationship between stress and depression was mediated partially by stress management self-efficacy (37% to 55% mediation, depending on the severity of stress).

Conclusions: Identifying students with limited stress management self-efficacy and providing them with appropriate supportive services may help them to manage stress and prevent depression.

Richard G. Sawatzky, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Trinity Western University, British Columbia.

Pamela A. Ratner, PhD, RN, FCAHS, is Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia.

Chris G. Richardson, PhD, is Assistant Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia.

Cheryl Washburn, PhD, RPsych, is Director of Counselling Services, University of British Columbia.

Walter Sudmant, MA, is Director, Office of Planning and Institutional Research, University of British Columbia.

Patricia Mirwaldt, MD, CCFP, is Director of Student Health Services, University of British Columbia.

Accepted for publication September 27, 2011.

All authors declare that they have been affiliated with the university at which the survey took place.

Corresponding author: Richard G. Sawatzky, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Road, Langley, British Columbia, Canada V2Y 1Y1 (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.