Background: This study addresses the issue of why under conditions of stress some people stay physically and psychologically healthy while others become ill. Being able to deal with stress, to cope with the pressures of daily life, and yet stay healthy, is seen as a function of such factors as physical health, psychological health, constitutional predisposition, social support, exercise habits, and personality.
Methods: This study examined the moderating effects of the personality constructs of hardiness and sense of coherence, sports participation (college varsity athletes and college nonathletes), and gender on the relationship between perceived stress and psychological symptoms. College varsity athletes (n = 135) and college nonathletes (n = 135), all undergraduates at New York University, completed four questionnaires: Hardiness Scale, Sense of Coherence Scale, Daily Hassles Scale, and Profile of Mood States. Participants also completed a background questionnaire providing basic demographic data. Psychological symptoms and perceived stress were the criterion variables: hardiness, sense of coherence, sports participation, and gender were the predictor variables. Correlational analyses were applied to the resulting data and used to answer and to test the research hypotheses.
Results: There was a significant positive correlation between perceived stress and psychological symptoms among college varsity athletes and college nonathletes. There was a significant positive correlation between the personality scales of Hardiness and Sense of Coherence for both college varsity athletes and college nonathletes. When controlling for gender, college varsity athletes scored significantly higher on hardiness, scored slightly higher on sense of coherence, and reported significantly less perceived stress and significantly fewer psychological symptoms than the college nonathletes. Comparing by gender, no statistically significant mean differences were found on the four main variables. A significant negative correlation was observed between personality hardiness and perceived stress and psychological symptoms for the total sample. However, the college nonathletes subsample showed no significant effect between hardiness and perceived stress.
Conclusions: Finally, there was a significant negative correlation between sense of coherence and perceived stress and psychological symptoms for both the college varsity athletes and college nonathletes.