Evaluating Perceived Stress Among ROTC Students

Stephanie Strickland

Authors:  Stephanie (“Steph”) Strickland

Faculty Mentor:  Strekalova Yulia

College: College of Journalism and Communications


The purpose of this study is to examine ROTC students at the University of Florida, in the context of their perceived stress levels. Through the use of a survey, which utilizes questions derived from the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the study will evaluate the perceived stress levels of a random sample of ROTC students within Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps ROTC in comparison to the non-ROTC population. With nearly 150 research participants with an average age range of 18-24, in both ROTC (n=88) and Non-ROTC (n=57) populations, this research serves as a pilot study to aid future research on stress and mental health among these populations on college campuses. Future research can utilize both qualitative and quantitative means to find causes behind the measured perceived stress in this study, which can help inform decisions on the allocation of mental health resources.

Poster Pitch

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Mark Law
Mark Law (@guest_150)
1 year ago

Nice work. I wonder why? Maybe it is the exercise regimen that ROTC has helps lower stress?

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_1204)
Reply to  Mark Law
1 year ago

Future studies can definitely help answer this, but I have a hypothesis that it has to do with perceived support from a defined group in conjunction with things like exercise and a more rigid structure in the day. It will certainly be interesting to explore as I move into the qualitative side of things! Thanks for stopping by!

Julia Withrow
Julia Withrow (@guest_3202)
1 year ago

Hi Steph- really cool study! Do you have any ideas for future populations to investigate? Maybe for similar reasons, student athletes may show similar results?

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_5332)
Reply to  Julia Withrow
1 year ago

Some literature exists on athletes and some other populations like sororities, first-gen, etc. (I elaborate more on this in the paper), but I think comparing various groups on a similar scale is important for standardizing our understanding of stress on campus and then diving into the “why” behind these stress levels will also be an important next step. However, from a preliminary stance, these types of scores can indicate the importance of mental health resources being more appropriately placed in certain spaces on campus.

Alissa O'Rorke
Alissa O'Rorke (@guest_3230)
1 year ago

This is well presented! Do you have a hypothesis as to what might be the reason behind the differences in perceived stress between Army and Air Force ROTC members?

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_4896)
Reply to  Alissa O'Rorke
1 year ago

My hypothesis is informed by background knowledge of the program and trends in this field in general, but my thoughts would be the differences lie within perceived support and group relations, which includes size of the respective programs, the structure of it and the level of commitment required. Those would be interesting to investigate on a qual side. Thanks for your question!

Gabriel Streitmatter
Gabriel Streitmatter (@guest_3274)
1 year ago

Hey! Great job. Really interesting findings. Sorry if I missed this on the poster but how many students filled out the surveys?

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_4338)
Reply to  Gabriel Streitmatter
1 year ago

Gabriel, it was a total of 150 respondents, about 90 with RTOC and 60 with Non-ROTC.

Julia Volpi
Julia Volpi (@guest_3532)
1 year ago

Hi Stephanie!

Amazing job! I didn’t know if you would know this, but did you collect any data/or have any clue on why in ROTC the Army branch had a significiantly lower stress score than the Air Force? Great job!

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_4586)
Reply to  Julia Volpi
1 year ago

That is a great question! I am moving into some qualitative research to find out those ‘whys’ and this study was meant to create a backbone for understanding differences in stress within and outside of the program. I don’t have the perfect answer for you now based on my current study, but I do have some thoughts on why this could be, ranging from differences in the program to size of the program.

Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez
Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez (@guest_4528)
1 year ago

This study is really interesting, great job! Were there any other branches (aside from Army and Navy) that were compared? If so, were the results similar?

Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez
Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez (@guest_4574)
Reply to  Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez
1 year ago

Army and Airforce*

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_4716)
Reply to  Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez
1 year ago

The study was open to AIr Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but the Marine Corps and Navy branches at UF are very small, and no one in those branches chose to respond. So, other branches weren’t compared for that reason, but there was a very significant difference in AF and Army that I will be investigating further on the qual side. Thanks for your question!

Hannah Calderazzo
Hannah Calderazzo (@guest_7282)
1 year ago

Hey Steph! This is super interesting research, and I think you did a wonderful job of presenting it, both in your pitch and in your poster. I saw earlier that you personally believe that these results derive from a mix of an exercise regime, and the perception of having a supportive community. How do you think the university could utilize this information to help create a better and more productive environment for students here at UF?

Steph Strickland
Steph Strickland (@guest_7792)
Reply to  Hannah Calderazzo
1 year ago

I think UF could learn from studies like this to offer programs through facilities like the CWC that cater to what helps students most and find the right places to reach those students. In a phrase, help them work smarter – not harder. Right now, catering to 50k students is a difficult feat, but research like this can help us understand how to make students feel more at home on campus. Thanks for stopping by!