Open Access
Depalma, Michael Joseph
Area of Honors:
Biobehavioral Health
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Laura Cousino Klein, Thesis Supervisor
  • Helen Marie Kamens, Honors Advisor
  • Resilience
  • Grit
  • Self-Compassion
  • Binge Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Illicit Drug
  • BMI
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Risky Health Behaviors
For many students, college is a period of life filled with new experiences and stressful events. Students cope with the immense stress of college by engaging in risky health behaviors (e.g., alcohol, illicit drug, tobacco use) that can lead to detrimental health outcomes (e.g., obesity). Current literature reveals there may be psychological traits (e.g., resilience, grit, self-compassion) that protect students from adopting these risky health behaviors. The purpose of this thesis was to examine the relationship between the psychological traits of resilience, grit, and self-compassion on risky health behaviors (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, illicit drug use) and health outcomes (e.g., obesity) in college students. It was proposed that resilience, grit, and self-compassion would protect against risky health behaviors and health outcomes, as indicated by a negative relationship between variables. Two hundred seventeen full-time students attending a 4-year university between the ages of 18 and 24 years completed an anonymous online survey measuring levels of resilience, grit, and self-compassion and how these traits relate to risky health behaviors and health outcomes. The average anxiety (47.35 + 0.94) and depression (11.47 + 0.45) symptoms scores for this sample were substantially higher than published average scores, (37.47) and (8.4), respectively, for a demographically similar sample (Björgvinsson, Kertz, Bigda-Peyton, McCoy & Aderka, 2013; Spielberger et al, 1983). Participants who reported higher levels of trait resilience were more likely to report a greater number of days where they consumed their maximum number of alcoholic beverages over the last year, even when controlling for anxiety and depression [r = +0.16, n = 167, p<0.05]. Grit was not significantly associated with any risky health behavior or health outcomes after controlling for anxiety and depression. Interestingly, when controlling for anxiety and depression, there was a positive, not negative, relationship between self-compassion with tobacco use [r = +0.20, n = 166, p< 0.05], nicotine use [r = +0.24, n = 166, p< 0.05], and marijuana use [r = +0.26, n = 166, p< 0.05]. Finally, resilience and self-compassion were negatively associated with BMI [r = -0.14, n = 198, p< 0.05; r = -0.18, n = 190, p< 0.05] respectively; however, these effects disappeared when controlling for anxiety and depression. This thesis adds to a growing body of research examining protective mechanisms among college students for coping with stress and highlights the need for more research.