Stress, pH, & Coping: Does Experience Make a Difference?
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The current study hypothesized a relationship between academic year, coping mechanisms, stress, short-term memory and salivary pH. Cortisol is a hormone release during stress that is often measured in studies despite its cost, but can salivary pH be used as a cheaper significant alternative predictor of stress and memory? It was expected that upper-classmen would: report using more effective coping strategies, have more optimal pH levels, be more accurate in assessing their ability to handle stress and have better short-term memory even in the face of a higher quantity and magnitude of outside life stressors. Upperclassmen (28) and lowerclassmen (30) undergraduate students completed a life-stress scale, self-ratings of strategies used and effectiveness for handling stress. Short-term memory was assessed after a stressful rumination exercise using a reading passage and timed comprehension test. Participant pH levels were measured in the saliva twice to ensure accuracy. Using a Pearson Correlation in a correlation matrix, several significances were found at the .05 and even .001 levels. Although the part of the hypothesis was not supported, there were significant findings with salivary pH and other relationships as well. Coping style and believed ability to handle stress were positively correlated (r=.549, p<.001) but year level and believed ability to handles stress are negatively correlated (r=-.258 and p=.05). Higher stress was correlated with lower memory retention with r=-.561 and p<.001. For pH: It was found that there is a very positive correlation between pH and memory (r=-.909, p<.001) and a very negative relationship between pH and stress (r=-.492, p<.001). From the data collected in this study, we have concluded that salivary pH seems to predict memory retention just as well as stress levels do.