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Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

2014, 5(1), 41-45

2014 Indian Association of Health,


Research and Welfare

http://www.iahrw.com/index.php/home/journal_detail/19#list

Life stress, optimism, and life satisfaction among school students


Jwmwishree Boro and D. Dhanalakshmi
Department of Applied Psychology, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry
The objective of this study was to examine the relationship among life stress, optimism and life satisfaction among
adolescents. A sample of 145 high school students (78 male and 67 female) were randomly selected from the school
for current study. The participants were given three standardized questionnaires to assess their levels of life stress,
optimism and life satisfaction. The scales used for the current study were Students Stress Inventory by Gadzella,
Revised Life Orientation Test by Scheier, Carver and Bridges, Multidimensional Students' Life Satisfaction Scale
(MSLSS) by Scott Huebner. Pearson's correlational analysis and t-test were carried out to assess the relationship
among life stress, optimism and life satisfaction, and to examine the gender differences. The study found significant
positive correlation between optimism and life satisfaction and it also found that girls experienced higher level of
life satisfaction when compared to boys and that boys experienced a high level of pressure, a dimension of life stress,
when compared to girls. Some kind of counseling program can be designed to improve life satisfaction and reduce
pressure among boys and as well as for their family

Keywords: life stress, optimism, life satisfaction


In the current decade, many researchers are focusing on stress and it
has become a major area of interest for research. Many studies on
stress have been carried out for individuals in different stages like
childhood, adolescents, adulthood and old age. Stress is a person's
response to a situation when an individual feels certain strain and
pressure in his/her life. Each and every stage of development can be
quite stressful. Adolescence is a period of a lot of physical and
emotional changes and sometimes adolscents may not be able to
understand the physical changes that take place within them. These
physical and emotional changes may lead to stress. These kind of
stresses lead to some problems in individual's life and reduces the
satisfaction level of life. Studies have revealed that optimistic
individual can easily overcome their stress and if they are satisfied
with their life, their stress levels will reduce. Therefore, this study
was focused on exploring positive outcomes in adolescents with
special reference to interrelationships, gender difference in life
stress, optimism and life satisfaction among adolescents.
Previous researches show that schools are main causes of stress for
young people and that stress can lead to depression (Basch & Kersch,
1986). It is found that adolescent girls experience higher levels of
stress when compared to boys and this heightened level of stress is
related to stressful life events and interpersonal difficulties in close
relationships like family, peers and romantic partners (Hankin,
Mermelstein, & Roesch, 2007). Stress is associated with a lot of
negative impact on human life and it implicates negative
consequences on health and well-being and there is emerging
evidence that optimism can moderate the negative impact of stress.
Optimism has been related to better psychological and physical well
being, particularly during times of heightened stress (Smith &
MacKenzie, 2006). There are studies which have emerging evidence
that optimism can moderate the negative impact of stress and it was
found that optimism is positively linked to coping strategies that
actively aim to solve the problem, and negatively linked to avoidant
coping strategies that ignore or avoid the stressor (Solberg Nes &
Segerstrom, 2006). An optimistic outlook has been associated with
Correspondence should be sent to Jwmwishree Boro, Department
of Applied Psychology, Pondicherry University, Kalapet

less distress, better quality of life, better health outcomes, and lower
diastolic blood pressure reactivity in stressful situations than a more
pessimistic style (King, Rowe, Kimble, & Zerwic, 1998). Chang
(1998) found that optimism serves as a moderator between stress
and psychological well-being and also has a direct impact on
psychological adjustments. Optimists are psychologically welladjusted and satisfied with life, engaged in adaptive behaviours, and
tend to have better physical health (Rasmussen, Scheier &
Greenhouse, 2009). Optimists and pessimists differ in their
secondary appraisals of stressful situations, and an individual who is
more optimistic reports low level of perceived stress (Chang, Rand
& Strunk, 2000). Optimism is one positive trait that is strongly
associated with satisfaction of life (Myers & Diener 1995). In
another study conducted by Creed, Patton and Bartrum (2002), the
dimensionality of the Life Orientation Test-Revised (Scheier,
Carver & Bridges, 1994) was examined in a sample of high school
students. They also studied the relationship of optimism and
pessimism independently with career-related variables like career
maturity, career decision making and goals and found that students
with higher levels of optimism showed better career planning, career
exploration, conviction in their career decisions and career goals. On
the other hand, those high in pessimism were found to have lower
levels of clarity regarding career-related variables and reported low
school achievement. Furthermore, the literature supports the notion
that optimism serves as a strong resilience factor during certain
stages of life, especially adolescence (Tusaie-Mumford, 2001).
In literature it has been found that optimism is one positive trait
that is associated with life satisfaction. Life satisfaction is defined as
a cognitive, global appraisal that people make when considering
their contentment with their life as a whole or in regard to specific
domains of life such as family, environment, friends and self
(Suldo, Riley & Shaffer, 2006). Life satisfaction is a relatively stable
component, and this makes it an ideal indicator in studying the
perceived quality of life of the youth. A majority of studies on
childrens' life satisfaction have studied the role of family
functioning and intrapersonal variables such as temperament and
cognitions (Huebner, Suldo, Smit & McKnight, 2004). Higher
levels of life satisfaction are seen to predict a range of adaptive and

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BORO AND BHANALAKSHMI/ LIFE STRESS, OPTIMISM, AND LIFE

positive outcomes like self-esteem (Harter, 1999), self-concept


(Gilman & Huebner, 1997) and self-mastery (Rosenfield, 1992). Life
satisfaction is alternatively viewed as both an important outcome and
as a potential contributor to the development of other positive
behavior and attitudes. Studies also revealed that life satisfaction is
significantly correlated with stress, that is, individuals who reported
lower levels of perceived stress also reported higher levels of life
satisfaction (Coffman, Donna, Gilligan & Tammy, 2003). A study
done by Simons, Aysan, Thompson, Hamarat, Steele, (2002)
examined perceived stress as predictors of life satisfaction in Turkish
college students sample and found that stress predicts the level of life
satisfaction. High life satisfaction in students is often accompanied
by reports of greater satisfaction with their family life (Dew &
Huebner, 1994) and peer groups (Greenspoon & Saklofske, 2001).
Though a lot of research is available on life stress, optimism and life
satisfaction, very few studies have been carried out to explore the
relationship between life stress, optimism and life satisfaction, and
there seems to be dearth of studies such studies, particularly with the
adolescents in India. Therefore, the current study would provide a
parallel line of research from different fields that focus on exploring
positive outcomes in adolescents and would contribute to research in
the field of positive psychology.

Objectives of the study


To find out the relationship between life stress, optimism, and life
satisfaction among school students.
To find out if there is any significant difference between male and
female students on life stress, optimism, and life satisfaction
among school students.

Method
Participants
The authorities of the selected schools for the study were contacted
and formal permission from the concerned schools were obtained.
Prior to data collection, students were informed about the purpose
and objectives of the study and asked for their consent. They were
given assurance that their responses will be kept confidential and that
their participation is voluntary. The students who agreed to
participate in the study were asked to fill out the questionnaires
silently and individually. The students were asked to fill the
Personal-Data Sheet, where their personal information was taken
and after which they were asked to complete the Student Life Stress
Scale, Revised Life Orientation Test and Multidimensional Life
Satisfaction Scale. On completion of all these questionnaires, the
researcher collected back the questionnaires from the students. The
current study was conducted on students of class VIII to X, aged
between 13 to 15 years in Assam. Only students studying in private
schools included. Data was collected from four private schools of
Assam were selected through random sampling. A total number of
145 (78 boys and 67 girls) students participated in the current study.

Instruments
Students Life Stress Inventory (SLSI): by Gadzella (1994). The scale
is having 23 items with five dimensions and it is a 5 point scale. The
options are 1= never, 2=seldom, 3= occasionally, 4= often, and 5=
most of the time. There were two sections of the scale: stressors and
reactions. Only the former part is included in this study to fit the
current research needs. There were five types of stressors:
frustrations, conflicts, pressure, changes and self imposed stressors.

Frustrations (seven items), assesses experiences dealing with delays


in reaching goals, daily hassles, lack of sources, failure to reach set
goals, socially being unacceptable, dating disappointments, and
denials in opportunities. Conflicts (three items), assesses one's
choices between two or more desirable alternatives, between two or
more undesirable alternatives, and with both desirable and
undesirable alternatives. Pressures (four items), assesses one's
competitions, deadlines, overload of activities, and interpersonal
relationships. Changes (three items), assesses one's unpleasant
experiences, numerous changes at one time, and disruptive life and
goals. Self-imposed (six items), assesses one's desire to compete, to
be loved by all, worries about everything, procrastinations, solutions
to problems, and anxiety in test-taking. The sum of these scores is
taken as the total stress score and the score ranges from 23 to 115.
The higher the score, greater the stress. Cronbach's alphas were .77,
.75, .62, .78 and .59 for the five sub scales respectively.
Revised Life Orientation Test (LOT-R): by Scheier, Carver &
Bridges (1994). This test is designed to assess the optimism of
individual and it consists of 10 items presented on a 5 point scale.
The options are 0= strongly disagree, 1= disagree, 2= neutral, 3=
agree and 4= strongly agree. Items 2, 5, 6 and 8 are fillers only. They
are not scored as part of the revised scale. Items 3, 7 and 9 were
reversely scored. Thus, the possible range of total score of the test is
0- 24 and high score indicates high optimism. Internal consistency
score is .69 and test retest reliability is .72.
Multidimensional Students' Life Satisfaction Scale (MSLSS): by
Scott Huebner (1994). This scale was designed to provide a
multidimensional profile of children's life satisfaction. There are
five domains of MSLSS and they are family, friends, school, living
environment and self. There are 40 items in the scale and it would be
4 point scale, options are 1= never, 2= sometimes, 3= often and 4=
almost always, if it is administered among 3-5 grades students and it
should be noted that a 6-point agreement format has been used with
middle and high school students, ranges are 1=strongly disagree, 2=
moderately disagree, 3 =mildly disagree, 4= mildly agree, 5=
moderately agree and 6= strongly agree. The sum of these scores is
taken as the total life satisfaction score and the score ranges from 40
to 240. High score on current scale indicates that the individual is
more satisfied with his life. Internal consistency (alpha) coefficients
of this scale range from .70s to low .90s and test-retest coefficients
for two- and four-week time periods have been also range from .70 to
.90. Convergent and discriminant validity have also been
demonstrated through predicted correlations with other self-report
well-being indexes (Greenspoon and Saklofske, 1997)

Statistical analysis
The current study is a correlational study. Pearson's correlational
analysis was conducted to assess the relationships between life
stress, optimism, and life satisfaction. Further, t-test was also
conducted to see if there were any differences between boys and
girls. The data was explored to see the mean, standard deviation and
standard error mean of the variables. The statistical analyses were
carried out using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS)
versions 16.0 for Windows.

Results
The objectives of this study was to examine the relationship between
life stress, optimism and life satisfaction among adolescents and to
explore the gender differences that exist with regard to these variables.

43

Indian Journal of Positive Psychology 2014, 5(1), 41-45

Table 1: Relationship between life stress, optimism and life satisfaction among school students
Variables

Frustration

Conflict

Pressure

Changes

Self imposed

Life Stress

Optimism

Optimism
Family
Friends
School
Living environment
Self
Life satisfaction

-.185*
-.130
-.131
-.042
-.199*
.078
-.128

-.027
-.034
-.016
.006
-.095
.043
-.029

.047
-.245**
-.113
-.019
-.427**
-.176*
-.289**

.062
-.004
-.067
-.035
-.105
-.045
-.078

.124
.245**
.132
.085
.132
.248**
.245**

-.005
-.048
-.065
.002
-.232**
.081
-.081

1
.258**
.222**
.221**
.187*
.045
.278**

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).


* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

Table 1 shows the correlation coefficients of life stress, optimism and


life satisfaction, as measured in the current study. As shown in the
table 1, there is a significant positive correlation between optimism
and life satisfaction (r= .278, p<0.01), which indicates that high in
optimism level, the better their life satisfaction level. There is a
significant negative correlation between life stress and living
environment, a dimension of life satisfaction (r= -.232, p<0.01). The
results also shows that optimism is negatively correlated with
frustration, a dimension of life stress (r= -.185, p<0.05), indicating
that optimistic people report lower levels of frustration, whereas it is
positively correlated with some of dimensions of life satisfaction like
family (r= .258, p<0.01), friends (r= .222, p<0.01), school (r= .221,
p<0.01), and living environment (r= .187, p<0.05). Results presented

in Table 1 indicates that life satisfaction is significantly correlated


with some of dimensions of life stress like pressure and self-imposed
stressors. There is a significant negative correlation between life
satisfaction and pressure (r= -.289, p<0.01), a significant positive
correlation with self-imposed stressors (r= .245, p<0.01). The
results also indicated that some of the dimensions of life stress are
significantly correlated with the dimensions of life satisfaction.
Frustration is negatively correlated with living environment (r= .199, p<0.05) and pressure is also negatively correlated with family
(r= -.245, p<0.01), living environment (r= -.427, p<0.01), self (r=.176, p<0.05), and there is a significant positive correlation between
self-imposed stressors and family (r= .245, p<0.01), self-imposed
stressors and self (r= .248, p<0.01).

Table 2: Difference between boys and girls on life stress, optimism and life satisfaction
Gender
Frustration

Mean

Boys
78
20.44
Girls
67
20.13
Conflict
Boys
78
9.19
Girls
67
9.52
Pressure
Boys
78
12.71
Girls
67
11.37
Changes
Boys
78
9.62
Girls
67
9.22
Self imposed
Boys
78
21.71
Girls
67
22.03
Life Stress
Boys
78
73.65
Girls
67
72.27
Optimism
Boys
78
13.83
Girls
67
14.60
Family
Boys
78
30.33
Girls
67
36.39
Friends
Boys
78
37.38
Girls
67
39.03
School
Boys
78
37.49
Girls
67
39.48
Living environment Boys
78
35.64
Girls
67
37.96
Self
Boys
78
30.22
Girls
67
20.58
Life satisfaction
Boys
78
171.06
Girls
67
183.43
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

Std. deviation

Std. Error Mean

3.712
4.569
2.629
2.318
3.117
2.822
2.534
2.540
4.307
3.312
9.574
8.582
3.237
3.912
5.096
4.677
6.681
5.936
6.646
6.236
6.757
5.719
6.111
5.745
20.707
19.027

.420
.558
.298
.283
.353
.345
.287
.310
.488
.405
1.084
1.048
.367
.478
.577
.571
.756
.725
.753
.762
.765
.699
.692
.702
2.345
2.325

.438
.796
2.679**
.927
.503
.911
1.286
7.408**
1.556
1.850
2.205*
.368
3.722**

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BORO AND BHANALAKSHMI/ LIFE STRESS, OPTIMISM, AND LIFE

Table 2 shows the difference between boys and girls on life stress,
optimism, life satisfaction. The results show that there is a significant
difference between boys and girls on life satisfaction (t= 3.722,
p<0.01), where in girls reported higher life satisfaction (M= 183.43,
SD= 19.027) when compared to boys (M= 171.06, SD= 20.707).
There is also a significant difference between boys and girls on
pressure, dimension of life stress (t=2.679, p<0.01), where in boys
score high on pressure (M= 12.71, SD= 3.117) when compared to
girls (M= 11.37, SD= 2.822). Further, a significant difference was
found between boys and girls on family satisfaction, dimension of
life satisfaction (t=7.408, p<0.01). Girls score higher on family
satisfaction (M= 36.39, SD= 4.677) when compared to boys (M=
30.33, SD= 5.096). The mean score of living environment for boys
and girls was found to be 35.64 and 37.96 and t-score of 2.205, at the
level of 0.05 indicates that there is a significant difference between
boys and girls on the dimension of living environment.

Discussion
The results of the study indicate that optimism has a significant
positive relationship with life satisfaction. Thus, this indicates that if
the individual is optimistic he is more likely to be satisfied with life
and that optimism helps in improving life satisfaction of the
individual. Generally, we see that individuals with an optimistic
outlook tend to perceive live as satisfying and that optimism can also
be viewed as an important psychological strength which can help in
facilitating adaptive behaviour and development. It may be so
because life satisfaction reflects conscious inner pleasant
experiences which motivate people to pursue goals and this kind of
behaviour, in turn, would make the individual optimistic. Lin, et al.
(2010) found that there is positive correlation between optimism and
life satisfaction.
A significant negative relationship was found between life stress
and living environment. This indicates that if the individual is very
stressed out, his level of satisfaction with his living environment will
be quite low. Stressful individuals are really not happy with their
living environment. As stressful events increase in their lives, it
becomes more evident that they do not like their neighborhood and
wish to live in different place with different people. Results also
show that optimism has a significant negative relationship with
frustration, a dimension of stress, and positive relationship with
some of the dimensions of life satisfaction. Optimism is a positive
behaviour of an individual and individuals who are very optimistic
are able to deal with all kinds of frustration that they face in their life.
For example, in job performance, literature revealed that workers
who do not possess an optimistic outlook will become frustrated
easily. Individuals with positive attitude enjoy being at home, and
like spending time with their parents and also like the company of
their friends. They also found their school life very interesting,
enjoyed the activities in school and felt that they are learning a lot
from their school, and that they are more satisfied with their
surroundings.
Life satisfaction is significantly correlated with some of
dimensions of life stress like pressure and self-imposed stressors.
There is a significant negative correlation between life satisfaction
and pressure, which indicates that more an individual is satisfied in
life, the amount of pressure experienced by individual would be less.
A significant positive relationship was found between life
satisfaction and self-imposed stressors, which indicates that an
individual who is satisfied with his life experiences has a desire to

compete with others.


In the current study, life satisfaction was found to be higher
among girls than boys. This indicates that girls are more satisfied
with their life when compared to boys. Generally, girls in our society
receive more care and support from their parents, teachers and
society which could increase their confidence and also provide them
enough courage to explore their environment and be successful at
achieving their goals. Achieving their goals with the support of all
the significant people in their life could lead to satisfaction in life.
The current finding contradicts the past literature, wherein Moksnes
et al. (2012) found that boys scored higher on life satisfaction than
girls across all ages, except in the age group 17-18 years, where girls
scored higher than boys. Many other studies did not find significant
gender differences in adolescent life satisfaction (Huebner et al.,
2000). It was also found that girls score higher on some of the
dimensions of life satisfaction like, family satisfaction and living
environment when compared to boys. This could be because, in the
Indian context, girls are expected to take care of their houses and
they are trained in it. Generally, we can also see that majority of girls
like to stay in their houses and their social life is limited to their
neighborhood. Whereas generally boys spend a lot of their free time
outside with their friends. Further, the current research results show
that boys are experiencing more pressure when compared to girls.
This may be because boys are under more pressure by their parents
to obtain good academic grades and to be more responsible
individuals. In the Indian society, man is still considered to be the
bread-winner of the family. In order to settle well with a good job in
their later lives, parents place great emphasis to educational
attainment in the case of boys which itself can be highly pressurizing
for the boys.

Conclusion
Optimistic individuals are satisfied with their families, friends,
schools and living environments too. Children who experience high
levels of stress are not happy with their lives and they are dissatisfied
with their living environments. Children who are loved in their close
relationships and are able to compete with everyone are more
satisfied with their life, family and themselves. Frustrated
individuals are not satisfied with their living environment and
individuals experiencing greater familial pressure are also
dissatisfied with their living environment, family and, also with their
own self. Girls are more satisfied with their life, living environment
and family when compared to boys, and boys reported experiencing
more pressure when compared to girls.
It is recommended that measures like counseling can be used to
improve their life satisfaction and stress reduction techniques can
also be taught to them to help them cope with the pressure they
experience. Maintaining strong social support networks with family
and peers will also help improve their level of life satisfaction.

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