By Daniela Rodriguez
Kevin Diaz admits he’s stressed a lot.
“My mother put all of her eggs in one basket,” said Diaz, a sophomore psychology major at Purchase of Dominican descent. “I am her first kid to go to college
and she has very high expectations for me, so that’s always on my back.”
Diaz is hardly alone. Balancing work, school, social interactions, and family life can be difficult and tiring for anyone, but research has found that Hispanic/Latinx students may be disproportionately affected by stress.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, Hispanic/Latinx adults have shown significantly higher levels of continuous stress compared to their non-Hispanic/Latinx counterparts. On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest amount of stress, Hispanic/Latinx participants reported an average of 6.1, compared to white participants (5.3), black participants (5.3), and Asian participants (5.2).
“Chronic stress has been rampant over the last few years due to COVID and the isolation that came with it,” said Roberta Morell, a counselor and physical education lecturer at Purchase’s Harbor Center. “If any individual already had some stress or systemic trauma or felt isolated, which is not uncommon among minorities, COVID made it all worse.”
According to a study from Ohio State University, Hispanic/Latinx college students experience the highest levels of anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, particularly following the pandemic.
“Stress for a short period of time can be good,” said Lauren Harburger, a Purchase psychology professor and researcher. “But when the stress lasts, your body doesn’t clear out the stress hormones, so it starts taking a toll on you, physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
For the Hispanic/Latinx community, as well as other marginalized groups, the pandemic was a bigger threat to social, economic, and intellectual development compared to the nation’s white population. According to Morell, COVID created new forms of isolation and solitude, which “put sort of a wedge in the development of the social construct and connection.”
Aside from COVID, Hispanic/Latinx students have to deal with another heavy source of stress: The pressure to become ‘the one who makes it out.’
“As a violin performance major, there’s definitely a high level of preparation that comes with it,” said Mekhi Noble, a sophomore music major of Puerto Rican descent. “I usually stay in the practice room for hours to make sure I’m at the same level as everyone else. I hold myself to very high standards.”
As of 2022, Hispanic/Latinx students make up only 19.4 percent of all enrolled college students in the country, according to the Education Data Initiative. Lack of funds, inaccessibility to quality education, and other issues that affect the community, restrict Hispanic/Latinx populations from pursuing higher education and add additional pressure to those who have the privilege to do so.
The constant high levels of stress these students experience represent one of the biggest obstacles on their path to success. According to Harburger, small, temporary levels of stress can lead to improved performance. However, continuous, intense stress can decrease productivity and performance. It can also lead to decreased immunity and cause serious health issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
For this reason, and many others, knowing how to cope with stress is a necessary and valuable skill to have. According to both Morell and Harburger, exercising, having a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, being mindful, and taking breaks are all very effective ways to reduce stress.
“When I’m too stressed, I just try to go with the flow,” said Noble. “Take it step by step, day by day, to make it to the next.”