Research Finds Social Support Helps Students Overcome "Task Overload"

Top l-r:  James M. Duncan,  Mallory Lucier-Greer ;, bottom l-r: Kayla Reed-Fitzke, Anthony J. Ferraro
James M. Duncan

Top l-r: James M. Duncan, Mallory Lucier-Greer ;, bottom l-r: Kayla Reed-Fitzke, Anthony J. Ferraro

As emerging adults transition to college they may want to examine the current status of their social relationships as researchers from the University of Arkansas and three other institutions found that perceptions of social support could directly and indirectly be related to well-being outcomes for emerging adult college students.

"Task overload is the notion that a person is feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the amount of daily tasks that must be completed in their current evnironment whether in general, such as household chores, or more specifically for work and school," said  James M. Duncan, adjunct instructor in the School of Environmental Sciences in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences..

Writing in the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, Duncan and faculty collaborators from three other universities report that "social support" can have a meaningful impact on how emerging adults handle perceptions of task overload. This study specifically looked at college adults up to the age of 25 that are becoming independent and learning how to handle multiple tasks, for example, school work and job responsibilities, during the transition to college and how lack of social support may affect their mental health and ultimately perceptions of task overload.

The paper was recently published in the latest edition (Volume 7) of the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension.

The researchers surveyed 185 college students from a large southeastern university about their perceptions of task overload. They also asked students to self-assess their perceptions of social support and if those perceptions decreased over time. Students were also asked to rate their perceptions of depressive symptomology. Students who had reported decreased perceptions of social support over time also reported high perceptions of depression, and in turn these perceptions of depression were associated with high levels of task overload.

"While launching into college is a time of expected independence and growth in autonomy it is important to remember that maintaining social bonds and creating new social relationships may help to promote positive mental health" said  Duncan. "Learning to be autonomous does not mean we have to embark on new journeys alone and although there is nothing wrong with building independent behaviors we should still make an effort to meaningfully connect with others tp promote our own-well-being."

 Duncan and his colleagues hope to continue exploring social support and well-being in other populations and are working on multiple research projects. The other researchers on this paper are Mallory Lucier-Greer, from Auburn University,;Anthony J. Ferraro, from Kansas State University; Kayla Reed-Fitzke, from the University of Iowa.


About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


James Michael Duncan, adjunct instructor
School of Human Environmental Science


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