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Collegiate women feel 'stress gap'; Nationwide survey finds females more anxious than male students


Women have closed the gender gap in college enrollment, but another gap has widened: College women are working harder and feeling more stress while their male counterparts are having a good time.

In a nationwide survey of college freshmen to be released today, women are five times as likely to be anxious as men, reporting they frequently felt "overwhelmed by all I have to do."

These young women are smoking more than men. More of them say they frequently felt depressed in the last year, more are worried about paying for college and feel insecure about their physical and emotional health.

Gender differences in lifestyle seem to contribute to the growing stress gap. During the last year, male students spent considerably more time exercising, partying, watching television and playing video games, while female students were juggling more household and child-care chores, studying more and doing more volunteer work.

"Men are spending more time doing things that inherently can be more fun," said Linda J. Sax, director of the 33rd annual survey, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Meanwhile, these young women are taking on more and more responsibilities and feel stressed by all they have to do."

Survey founder Alexander W. Astin calls the stress gap, which began widening in the mid-1980s, "an inevitable consequence of women adding more commitments and responsibilities on top of all the other things they have to cope with."

Astin notes that college students are experiencing an early version of the stress that "super-moms" feel later in life -- pursuing a career, maintaining a household and raising children.

The annual American Freshman Survey, the nation's oldest and most comprehensive assessment of student behavior and attitudes, canvassed 383,815 of the 1.6 million first-year students at U.S. colleges and universities.

Pub Date: 1/25/99

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