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J Am Coll Health. 2018 Oct 22:1-5. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1515763. [Epub ahead of print]

Event-related clinical distress in college students: Responses to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

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a Department of Psychology , San Francisco State University , San Francisco , CA , USA.
b Department of Psychiatry , University of California , San Francisco , CA , USA.
c Department of Psychology , Arizona State University , Tempe , AZ , USA.



College students have cited the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a significant source of stress. The current study examined the prevalence and demographic correlates of clinically significant election-related avoidance and intrusion symptoms among college students 2-3 months after the election.


College students attending a large public university (N = 769; Mage = 19.19; 48.2% female; 58.4% White) were surveyed in January and February 2017.


Participants completed a validated measure of clinically significant event-related distress symptoms (eg, intrusive thoughts, avoidance) and demographic questions.


One out of four students met criteria for clinically significant symptoms related to the election. Regression analyses suggested that sex, political party, religion, and perceived impact of the election on relationships were more useful predictors of stress symptoms than race or social class.


The high level of event-related distress is concerning because elevated symptoms of event-related stress are predictive of future distress and subsequent PTSD diagnoses.


Avoidance; college student; election; event-related distress; intrusion

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