Research News

Researchers develop online training module to counteract the negative effects of stress on adolescents

Results indicate the approach is effective

Adolescents are showing record levels of anxiety, depression and stress. A team of researchers working on a project made possible by two grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation has developed a 30-minute online training module that teaches students to manage stress and build resilience in STEM classrooms. The findings could lead to low-cost, scalable interventions.

The study evaluated the combination of two different types of mindset interventions: a “growth mindset” and a “stress-can-be-enhancing mindset.” Growth mindset is the idea that someone can learn from a challenging experience, like a difficult class. Stress-can-be-enhancing mindset is an idea that physiological stress responses, like the feeling of a racing heart, can help someone perform in difficult situations. The innovation in this intervention was the blending of these two ideas.

The researchers studied the effectiveness of the intervention and found physical and psychological improvements in participants. The scientists noted better academic performance and higher self-esteem in the more than 4,000 students involved in the study.

“Because mindset interventions like the one we tested could be delivered cost-effectively in national or regional scale-up studies, our research links insights about people’s affect regulation with intervention methods that might be able to produce real and lasting change for a large group of people,” said researcher David Yeager of the University of Texas Austin, co-lead of the study.

The intervention can help teens cope with certain stressors like academics or deadlines, but it is not appropriate for addressing trauma, abuse or inequality, the scientists said.