Friday, February 17, 2012

Top 21 anxieties for students at the University of Manitoba in 1974

Previously I have blogged about recent surveys on what college students in the United States, Sweden, and India fear. I thought somewhere there must be data on students in Canada, but  could not find anything recent. 

Back in spring 1974 two Canadian psychologists, M. P. Janisse and T. L. Palys did a survey of 1097 students in psychology classes at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. There were 642 females and 455 males. Students were asked to name three situations that produced anxiety, and to write each one down on an index card. (They also were asked to rate each situation on a scale from 1 to 10). Results were reported in 1976 in an article titled Frequency and Intensity of Anxiety in University Students published in the Journal of Personality Assessment, (volume 40, pages 502 to 515).

Over 110 items were reported at least once, and 62 were reported by both males and females. Table 1 reported their results for males, and Table 2 reported results for females.  I analyzed their results by tabulating the frequency for various items and dividing by the number of students to produce percentages. The common items were situations 21 through 82 in the tables. I also added their results for males and females to produce totals.

The bar chart shown above presents the top 21 anxieties (click on it to enlarge). Writing Exams (29.3%) was the top anxiety, followed by Speaking in Class or in Public (20.2%). Before Taking an Exam (14.9%) came third. Being Unprepared for an Exam (5.3%) and Studying for Exams (4.5%) came seventh and eighth, so four of the top ten anxieties involved exams. This article probably stayed obscure because it did not contain a bar chart (or even a table) like the one shown above. You have to read all the way to the 12th page to find any mention of the top three anxieties in their text. 


A second bar chart compares results for females (pink) and males (blue), listed in deceasing order for females. There were significant gender differences. Females reported higher percentages for 13 of 20 anxieties reported by both sexes. Only females reported being anxious when Walking Down a Dark Street at Night, while only males reported being anxious in Encounters with Police and Receiving a Phyically Violent Threat.

This January a Canadian student blogger, Michael Fantin, posted asking people to comment by naming their top three greatest fears. So far he has no replies, so he might look at the Janisse and Palys data.

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