Transition from elementary to high school stressful for students, study finds

April 25, 2013

New research from McGill University observes that the shift from elementary to secondary school is highly stressful for about one-quarter of students, and many more than that could use help coping. Researchers tracked 800 students over 3 years as they made the move to high school (in Quebec, high school starts in Grade 7), and found that those who are highly anxious engaged in "maladaptive" behaviours. About one-third of the stressed students reported overeating, others consumed alcohol, smoked and took drugs, while a few said they hurt themselves on purpose. The lead investigator says her preliminary findings apply to students making the transition into secondary school across Canada, and speaks to the need to teach young people coping strategies when they are about to experience some kind of change. All of these students will encounter even bigger challenges with a competitive PSE admissions process, high tuition, and an uncertain job market. "When kids are saying, 'I'm highly stressed,' we need to take it seriously and start teaching them ways to start managing that stress," the researcher says. "Otherwise, they're flailing around and some of them are engaging in really problematic behaviour." Globe and Mail