Objective: College students often use different strategies, such as consuming alcohol and smoking, to cope with stress. We examined the associations between self-perceived academic stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, and dietary patterns in graduate students.
Methods: A representative stratified sample of 275 students from each school of the Medical Science Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR-MSC) completed a 48-item questionnaire that solicited the following: socio-demographic data, estimates of self-perceived stress, estimates of the frequency of alcohol consumption and the type(s) of alcohol consumed, details regarding smoking habits, and information associated with diet (i.e., dietary patterns). Fisher's exact test and the Chi2 test were used to assess the associations between the different study variables.
Results: Only 3% were considered smokers (defined as > 1 cigarettes per day), with the greatest number of smokers among those aged 21-30 y (p<0.05). Smoking habits was not associated with academic load/stress or with dietary pattern. Most smokers reported that their main reason for using cigarettes was to cope with stress. About 70% of the students were considered drinkers (defined as > 0 drink/day), with a higher proportion found among women (63.5%), among those aged 21-30 years (90.6%), and among those with a low or moderate household income (p<0.05). Alcohol intake was significantly associated with academic stress, with a greater proportion of drinkers reporting experiencing moderate levels of academic stress (p<0.05), but it was not associated with dietary patterns or academic load (p>0.05). Most subjects classified as drinkers reported that alcohol consumption was not (in their experience) an effective strategy for the management of stress (81%).
Conclusion: Alcohol consumption was only associated with academic stress. No associations were found between smoking habits and academic stress/load and dietary patterns.