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 journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


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
Pages (from-to)986-1015
Number of pages30
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number6
Early online date16 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • academic stress
  • examinations
  • senior school
  • test anxiety
  • high stakes testing


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