Academic stress in the final years of school

a systematic literature review

Viviana M. Wuthrich*, Tess Jagiello, Vanessa Azzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Heightened academic stress in the final years of schooling is a common concern, yet little is known about how stress changes over time and what individual, school and family factors are associated with distress. We conducted a systematic review to examine the nature of distress in students in their final two years of secondary school. Sixty studies were eligible for inclusion. The main findings indicated severity of distress differed across the 17 countries sampled and measures used. There was some consistencies suggesting about 1 in 6 students experienced excessive distress. Female gender and anxiety proneness were consistently associated with increased distress, and freedom from negative cognitions with reduced distress. There was some evidence that individual characteristics (perfectionism, avoidance, coping, self-efficacy, resilience), lifestyle (sleep, homework), school, family and peer connectedness were associated with distress. Overall at-risk students can be predicted by theoretical models of anxiety and distress targeted with psychological interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Mar 2020



  • Academic stress
  • Examinations
  • High stakes testing
  • Senior school
  • Test anxiety

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