Prevalence, type, disclosure, and severity of adverse life events in college students

Joshua M. Smyth, Jill R. Hockemeyer, Kristin E. Heron, Stephen A. Wonderlich, James W. Pennebaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Objective: Some information on the prevalence of adverse life experiences is available for the general population and college students, but the extent, nature, and severity of these events is unclear. Participants: The authors recruited undergraduate college students (N = 6,053) from diverse academic settings (public and private schools) and geographic locations. Methods: They examined the prevalence, nature, severity, and disclosure of adverse events, in addition to reports of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology within the sample. Results: Across multiple studies, prevalence rates of adverse events ranged from 55.8% to 84.5%, replicating previous findings in larger samples. In a subset of undergraduate students (n = 97) who the authors interviewed in greater depth, 9% reported symptoms of clinical PTSD and an additional 11% reported subclinical symptoms. Conclusions: Research using college samples for the study of stressful life events is a useful and reasonable strategy. The authors discuss implications for research, as well as screening and referral services at universities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of American College Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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