• Users Online: 388
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Ahead of print publication  

Evaluation of stress level and its association with personality traits among trainees at an armed forces training establishment


1 Department of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 O/o DGMS (Navy), IHQ MoD, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-Feb-2021
Date of Decision15-Apr-2022
Date of Acceptance21-Apr-2022
Date of Web Publication10-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh Bobdey,
Department of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune - 411 001, Maharashtra
India
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmms.jmms_26_21

  Abstract 


Introduction: Stress cannot be considered a simple “stimulus-response reaction,” but it is a complex interaction between an individual and the environment, comprising subjective perception and evaluation of stressors and then responding in a highly personalized manner. The present study was conducted to assess the personality traits of trainees and explore their association with levels of perceived stress. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study was conducted on 911 trainees. For data collection, two instruments were used – Perceived Stress Score by Cohen for assessing stress among the subjects and Revised Neuroticism–Extraversion–Openness Personality Inventory for personality assessment. Results: Overall, the total mean Perceived Stress Score was 12.60 ± 5.62 indicating less than average stress. Only 10.98% of those tested had a score of 20 or more indicating perception of very high stress. Trainees with high perception of stress had significantly higher scores of neuroticism (57.82 ± 9.02, P < 0.05) including all the subfacets. In contrast, trainees with low or average stress perception had significantly higher scores of extraversion (53.57 ± 8.03, P < 0.05) and conscientiousness (54.25 ± 10.30, P < 0.05). Conclusion: The present study is the first of its kind which tries to not only assess the stress levels among trainees but also explore and compare their personality characteristics. The study brings out that majority of the trainees had average stress and provides definitive evidence of association between high neuroticism, low extraversion, and perception of high stress, and offers a window of opportunity to explore options for remedial action such as incorporation of stress coping-up techniques in Armed Forces training curriculum.

Keywords: Extraversion, neuroticism, personality, stress



How to cite this URL:
Bobdey S, Mookkiah I, Narayan S, Pawar A A. Evaluation of stress level and its association with personality traits among trainees at an armed forces training establishment. J Mar Med Soc [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2022 Oct 5]. Available from: https://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/preprintarticle.asp?id=353650




  Introduction Top


The term stress initially originated from the field of engineering, where “stress” leads to “strain.” However, in physiology, that difference is blurred, and one considers “stress” as the cause, the “stressor,” as well as the reaction to the stressor.[1] Most frequently, in medical parlance, stress is described as an adaptive reaction of living organisms in response to internal or external threats to homeostasis. It is considered a multifarious defense mechanism resulting from complex interaction of many dynamic biological, psychological, and social interconnected factors of nature.[2] Thus, though in recent times, the term stress is often used in a negative connotation, it is not always bad. Some amount of stress is essential to make an individual perform efficiently, on the other hand, too much stress can have catastrophic effects on mental and physical health.

Individuals vary widely in how they respond to stress. The same stressor may be manageable for one person and overwhelming for another. Thus, the response to the stressors is a complex phenomenon which is determined by numerous dynamic individual factors such as developmental, genetic, and neurobiological which are deeply rooted in the larger sociocultural environment (e.g., family, political, and economic).[3],[4]

In this era of asymmetric warfare involving unconventional adversaries and methods, the success of any military operation will be determined by individual intelligence, mental resilience, and ability to maintain logical thinking rather than only physical fitness and availability of sophisticated armaments. Therefore, the present study was conducted to assess the personality traits of trainees in an Armed Forces training establishment and explore their association with levels of perceived stress.


  Materials and Methods Top


This was a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study. A total of 911 out of 1024 trainees participated in the study. The remaining 113 trainees could not participate because of hospitalization, sick leave, or outstation visits; all the trainees before recruitment undergo rigorous screening for physical and psychological ailments, and only those who are completely fit are recruited. In addition, the trainees are also subjected to medical examination annually; hence, there were no inclusion/exclusion criteria. Informed consent was obtained after explaining the details of the study, and no trainee declined to participate. The subjects were assembled in groups of 150–200 in an air-conditioned hall and administered the questionnaire. Each session was of 3 h, and the principal investigator was present throughout the session to answer any query regarding the questions. The study had the approval of the research ethics committee of the institution.

For the data collection, two instruments were used, the Perceived Stress Score by Cohen[5] for assessing stress among the subjects. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress with good validity and reliability.[6] It is a ten-item scale with a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 40. The items in the questionnaire are designed to reveal how unpredictable and overburdened respondents find their lives. Participants rate the items on a four-point scale, ranging “Never” to “Very Often.” Personality characteristics of subjects with high stress were compared with subjects with low/average stress scores. Second, the Revised Neuroticism–Extraversion–Openness Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) was used for personality assessment. NEO PI-R consists of 240 items (questions) and is a PI-R which examines a person's “Big Five” personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness). Each main personality trait has six subcategories called facets.[7] Participants rate the items on a five-point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” The reported reliability coefficient of responses on the five scales ranges from 0.89 to 0.93 (alpha).[8],[9] The internal consistency and test–retest reliability of the NEO PI-R has also been found to be satisfactory in various populations, including India.[10],[11] The developer of PSS (Cohen et al., 1983)[5] has not provided any cutoffs for the level of perception of stress, hence, based on the scores of PSS obtained in our study and the opinion of experts, the trainees were divided into two groups – trainees with high perception of stress (Perceived Stress Score ≥20) and those with low or average perception of stress (Perceived Stress Score <20) and their personality characteristics were compared as obtained from NEO PI-R. The collected data were recorded in a computerized spreadsheet (Microsoft® Excel) and analyzed using SPSS software version 21.0 (SPSS, IBM, Chicago, IL, USA). Descriptive statistics used included frequencies, percentages, and measures of central tendency. Data were compared using Mann–Whitney U-test. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


  Results Top


This study was conducted on 911 trainees presently undergoing training in an Armed Forces Officers training establishment. The descriptive data are presented in [Table 1]. Overall, the total mean Perceived Stress Score was 12.60 ± 5.62 indicating average stress (a PSS score of <13 indicates < average stress, 13–19 average stress, and ≥20 indicates very high stress). Only 10.98% of the tested trainees had a score of 20 or more indicating perception of very high stress. All the trainees were also administered a 240-item personality assessment questionnaire (NEO PI-R). Trainees with high perception of stress had significantly higher scores of neuroticism including all the subfacets, namely Worry, Frustration/Quickness to Anger, Moodiness, Social Concerns, Self-Indulgence, Sensitivity of Stress, and Imagination. In contrast, trainees with low or average stress perception had significantly higher scores of extraversion and conscientiousness [Table 2]. There was no difference in the main dimension and subset scores of openness to experience and agreeableness [Table 3].
Table 1: Perceived stress levels among study subjects

Click here to view
Table 2: Comparison of personality characteristics between study subjects with stress and study subjects with high stress

Click here to view
Table 3: Summary of predominant personality traits among trainees with high and low perceived stress levels

Click here to view



  Discussion Top


Personality traits refer to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It can be defined as “differences among individuals in a typical tendency to behave, think, or feel in some conceptually related ways, across a variety of relevant situations and across some fairly long period of time.”[12] Five broad dimensions are commonly used to describe the human personality which are known as “Big Five” personality traits. The five factors have been defined as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.[13] Out of the “Big Five” personality traits, neuroticism has been associated with impaired ability to cope with stress and is an important risk factor for stress-related disorders.[14] In our study, too, subjects who experienced high stress scored high on neuroticism and its subcategories, i.e., “Worry, Frustration/Quickness to Anger, Moodiness, Social Concerns, Self-Indulgence, and Sensitivity of Stress” [personality characteristics of the two groups are summarized in [Table 3]].

Although one of the most important predictors of stress appraisal is personal beliefs, personality is also known to be a major contributor to the variability in stress responses.[15] Researchers believe that personality is a collection of traits that can be explained by five main dimensions.[16] McCrae and Costa[16] proposed that these basic five dimensions comprise dynamic tendencies that operate between experience and action, resulting in the development of consistency in reactions to the environmental stimulus. Neuroticism constitutes the propensity toward emotional distress (e.g., nervousness, guilt, uselessness, and hopelessness). People who score high in neuroticism frequently experience more frequent and intense episodes of distress. Neuroticism is known to intensify both reaction and vulnerability to stress.[17] Extraversion, on the other hand, implies a more positive and enthusiastic approach to friendship, companionship, and positive social life. Individuals with high scores of extraversion are livelier and emotionally positive. The extraversion dimension of personality reduces vulnerability to stress and confers protection against distressing emotions. Thus, while personality trait of extraversion acts as protection against detrimental stressors, neuroticism does confer a particular vulnerability to stress.[17],[18] Studies have indicated that openness to experience and agreeableness facets have minor importance with regard to stress perception.[17] This explains the findings of our study, where no significant difference between the two groups was observed with regard to openness to experience and agreeableness, whereas subjects with high perceived stress were found to have significantly higher neuroticism and low extraversion. Neuroticism is also known to be a strong risk factor for the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder.[19]

Individual resilience forms a very important component of stress coping mechanism and is known to act as a buffer to deleterious effects of stress. It is often thought of as the capacity of the individual to bend, but not break, and to bounce back from adversity. According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is defined as the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.”[20] However, research has shown that individuals with high neuroticism engage in significantly more emotion-focused and avoidance coping than low-neuroticism participants regardless of what level of stress they are exposed to.[21] Thus, high neuroticism is not only associated with an increased risk of stress and depression but is also negatively associated with stress coping mechanisms.

Limitations

The present study is the first of its kind conducted in an Armed Forces training establishment which tries to not only assess the stress levels among trainees but also explore and compare their personality characteristics. However, this study is not devoid of certain limitations which need to be acknowledged. First, the results are not generalizable to Armed Forces personnel as this study included only trainees undergoing training in a single institute. Second, as the study population was still undergoing training, therefore certain changes are bound to occur in their personality traits due to vigorous training and discipline, and these aspects cannot be accounted for at this stage. Third, despite best efforts, 113 trainees of total 1024 could not be sampled due to various reasons enumerated previously.


  Conclusion Top


Stress is a reality of modern era. The way an individual handles it depends a lot on his/her personality characteristics and determines whether this stress would act as a stepping stone to success or a stumbling block leading to failure. The present study undoubtedly proves the association between neuroticism and perception of high stress and provides a window of opportunity to explore options for remedial action such as incorporation techniques of coping up with stress and mental resilience training in the curriculum of Armed Forces training establishments.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Joel ED. Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Cardiol 2008;51:1237-46.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Lecic-Tosevski D, Vukovic O, Stepanovic J. Stress and personality. Psychiatriki 2011;22:290-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Jéssica EB, Mariane LM, Vinícius RT, Denice BB. The relationship between personality traits and stress levels in children. Psychology 2015;6:672-80.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Lauren MS, Robert HP, Dennis S, Charney AA, Linda CM, Steven MS. How does social support enhance resilience in the trauma-exposed individual? Ecol Soc 2015;20:10-29.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. A global measure of perceived stress. J Health Soc Behav 1983;24:385-96.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Lee EH. Review of the psychometric evidence of the perceived stress scale. Asian Nurs Res (Korean Soc Nurs Sci) 2012;6:121-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Paul T, Costa JR, McCrae R. Four ways five factors are basic. Pers Individ Diff 1992;13:653-65.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Ashton MC. Personality Traits and the Inventories that Measure them. Individual Differences and Personality. 2nd ed. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier 2013. p. 27-55.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
McCrae RR, Costa PT Jr., Martin TA. The NEO-PI-3: A more readable revised NEO personality inventory. J Pers Assess 2005;84:261-70.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Rituparna B, Anjali G. Personality traits and different career stages – A study on Indian School Teachers. Procedia Soc Behav Sci 2014;140:506-10.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Lodhi PH, Deo S, Belhekar VM. The five-factor model of personality. In: McCrae RR, Allik J, editors. The Five-Factor Model of Personality across Cultures. International and Cultural Psychology Series. Boston, MA: Springer; 2002. p. 227-48.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Caspi A, Roberts BW, Shiner RL. Personality development: Stability and change. Annu Rev Psychol 2005;56:453-84.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Goldberg LR. The structure of phenotypic personality traits. Am Psychol 1993;48:26-34.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Mohiyeddini C, Bauer S, Semple S. Neuroticism and stress: The role of displacement behavior. Anxiety Stress Coping 2015;28:391-407.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Afshar H, Roohafza HR, Keshteli AH, Mazaheri M, Feizi A, Adibi P. The association of personality traits and coping styles according to stress level. J Res Med Sci 2015;20:353-8.  Back to cited text no. 15
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
16.
McCrae RR, Costa PT Jr. Personality, coping, and coping effectiveness in an adult sample. J Pers 1986;54:385-405.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.
Ebstrup JF, Eplov LF, Pisinger C, Jørgensen T. Association between the five factor personality traits and perceived stress: Is the effect mediated by general self-efficacy? Anxiety Stress Coping 2011;24:407-19.  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.
Uliaszek AA, Richard E, Zinbarg A, Mineka S, Craske MG, Sutton JM, et al. The role of neuroticism and extraversion in the stress–anxiety and stress–depression relationships. Anxiety Stress Coping 2010;23:363-81.  Back to cited text no. 18
    
19.
Xia J, He Q, Li Y, Xie D, Zhu S, Chen J, et al. The relationship between neuroticism, major depressive disorder and comorbid disorders in Chinese women. J Affect Disord 2011;135:100-5.  Back to cited text no. 19
    
20.
American Psychological Association. The road to resilience: What is resilience? Washington, D.C., USA: American Psychological Association; 2013. Available from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx. [Last accessed on 2022 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 20
    
21.
Mark EB, Davina JF. Neuroticism, stress, and coping in the context of an anagram-solving task. Pers Individ Diff 2010;49:380-5.  Back to cited text no. 21
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]



 

 
Top
 
 
  Search
 
     Search Pubmed for
 
    -  Bobdey S
    -  Mookkiah I
    -  Narayan S
    -  Pawar A A
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

 
  In this article
Abstract
Introduction
Materials and Me...
Results
Discussion
Conclusion
References
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    Viewed165    
    PDF Downloaded1    

Recommend this journal