Assessing the association of university stress and physiological reactivity with decision-making among students Academic Article uri icon


  • Compared with age-matched employees, university students report higher levels of chronic stress and this may affect their decision-making. The impact of chronic stress and physiological reactivity upon cognitive function is receiving more attention, but few studies have empirically assessed the associations of these variables concurrently. Our aim was to investigate if chronic student stress, as assessed by effort-reward imbalance (ERI) and overcommitment, and physiological reactivity, were related to decision-making. As measures of physiological reactivity, we collected salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) and continuously recorded heart rate variability (HRV) data from male students (n = 79) at pretest and immediately after some computerized decision-making tasks (simple and choice- reaction times). Our findings suggest that students who are higher in overcommitment and who are more physiologically reactive (sAA and HRV indices) at the pretest stage may be more "at-risk" of poor decision-making than others. If others can replicate our findings in more diverse samples, this will contribute to an evidence base for interventions targeted at reducing overcommitment, ERI, and dysregulated autonomic reactivity to improve decision-making.

publication date

  • 2019