The Impact of Graduation and Work on Health and Behavior




Minzenmayer, Tracey


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Minzenmayer, Tracey. The Impact of Graduation and Work on Health and Behavior. Doctor of Philosophy (Biomedical Sciences), August, 2006, 131 pp., 1 table, references, 125 titles. The transition of young adults from the educational system to the workplace is affected by individual, cultural, economic, and institutional factors within the specific context of the time of transition. Since World War II, there have been a number of changes in both the order and timing of reaching the traditional markers of adulthood such as financial independence, work, marriage, and children. The lack of guidance in navigating the new path to adulthood has resulted in anecdotal evidence of increased stress in young adults. Little health research has been conducted on new graduates to evaluate the sources and effects of this stress. The current study surveyed psychological distress, health behaviors, and occupational variables in young adults between one and four years after they had received their undergraduate degrees. The majority of the sample believed they could potentially perform their job duties without the benefit of their degree, and over a third regretted their choice of major. A fourth of the sample had jobs that were unrelated to their undergraduate degrees. Underemployment, or not making use of their college education, was strongly associated with depression and worry in the respondents. Having adequate social support had positive relationships with job satisfaction and organizational commitment and was associated with low levels of stress, depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and worry. High levels of stress, anxiety, and depression were associated with less sleep. Unfortunately, this study was limited by a small number of respondents, but it is still clear that many graduates are not experiencing all of the benefits of having a college degree. There appears to be a discrepancy between their education and the demands of the workplace. It is recommended that institutions of higher education and employers find ways to address this discrepancy and to better guide graduates through the transition.