The associations between academic stress and depression among college students: A moderated chain mediation model of negative affect, sleep quality, and social support

Yongli LIU, Junjun CHEN, Kun CHEN, Jing LIU, Wei WANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Growing competition in tight job market and academic excellence as a social norm in Asian culture have made Chinese college students burdened with immense academic stress. 

Objectives: This study aimed to explore the associations between academic stress and depression, and the mediating roles of negative affect and sleep quality, as well as the moderating role of social support in the relationship between negative affect and sleep quality. 

Methodology: A convenience sample of 221 male and 479 female college students aged between 17 and 25 completed questionnaires on academic stress, depression, negative affect, sleep quality and social support. 

Results: Results indicated that academic stress could not only directly affect depression (b = 0.31, p < 001), but also affect depression through the mediation role of negative affect and sleep quality. The chain mediating effects includes three paths, namely, the mediating role of negative affect (indirect effect = 0.21, percentage of total effect = 69.58 %), the mediating role of sleep quality (indirect effect = 0.06, percentage of total effect = 21.03 %), and the chain mediating role of negative affect and sleep quality (indirect effect = 0.06, percentage of total effect = 19.86 %). Social support moderated the adverse influence of negative affect on sleep quality. Social support decreases the impact of negative affect on sleep quality. Specifically, the association between negative affect and sleep quality was stronger for college students with low (bsimple = 0.44, p < 0.001) social support than those with high (bsimple = 0.32, p < 0.001) social support. 

Implications: The results advanced our understanding of how academic stress affects college students' depression. These findings provide implications on the cultivation of stress coping strategies, promotion of emotion regulation skills, exaltation of sleep quality, and improvement of the social support level aiming for future depression preventions and interventions. Specific measures include setting up psychological health courses, teaching emotion management strategies, and establishing web-based programme steming from acceptance and commitment therapy. It should be noted that the cross-sectional design means the causal associations among the variables could not be determined. Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104014
JournalActa Psychologica
Volume239
Early online dateAug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Citation

Liu, Y., Chen, J., Chen, K., Liu, J., & Wang, W. (2023). The associations between academic stress and depression among college students: A moderated chain mediation model of negative affect, sleep quality, and social support. Acta Psychologica, 239, Article 104014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2023.104014

Keywords

  • Academic stress
  • Depression
  • Negative affect
  • Sleep quality
  • Social support

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