A TALE of TWO MAJORS Final Report

This topic submitted by Nathaniel Gay, Michelle Geller, Mica Scott, & Heather Storer (queen_heats@hotmail.com, sketchynate@hotmail.com) at 10:35 pm on 12/6/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins


Are First-Year Architecture/Design majors more stressed than Western majors?
Nathaniel Gay, Michelle Geller, Mica Scott, Heather Storer


Our group will monitor the stress levels between students that are Architecture/Design majors and students that are Western majors. We will take the blood pressure of our test subjects and this will be the main factor in determining their level of stress. We will also ask the test subjects questions about their lifestyle such as: how many hours of sleep they got the previous night, what their diet consists of, if they smoke on a regular basis, etc.
Our hypothesis is that students that are Architecture/Design majors will have higher levels of stress than students that are Western majors. Because of a significantly larger workload and the competitiveness of their program, Architecture/Design students must exert themselves far more than the Western students. It would also stand to reason that Architecture/Design students have less time for sleep and healthy eating, which would only add to their level of stress.

This study affects our group personally; two of our own group members follow the Architecture/Design curriculum and very well might be carrying this stress with them. However, there are also indirect concerns. Because Architecture/Design students make up a large part of the population of the Western School, their moods can greatly affect the atmosphere of the campus. If Architecture/Design students are in a stressed-out, negative mood, it will create a collectively unfriendly atmosphere.


It has been documented that there is a strong link between high blood pressure and stress. The National Institute on Aging states that, blood pressure goes up in all people in periods of stressÉ(NIA, 1994). College presents young people with unlimited possibilities for these stressful periods. Unrelenting professors, strict deadlines, all-nighters, competitions for grades, and an un-healthy diet are just some of the factors in college that can produce stress in even the healthiest of students. The Counseling Center at the University of Florida states that, someone who is always feeling overwhelmed, eats poorly, and doesnÕt get enough sleepÉ usually has a limited ability to cope with stressful events. (University of Florida, 2001) The following qualities can be applied to many, if not all, Architecture/Design students.

If it is found that these students are exhibiting extremely high levels of stress, the program might be in need of a change. There is nothing wrong with challenging students; in fact, it is academically healthy. However, it is quite possible that Architecture/Design students are being pushed to hard. This could have serious detrimental effects to their mental and physical well-being. Our study will provide some insight into the working and living conditions of Architecture/Design students.


Hypertension is so dangerous that it can damage nearly every part of the body because of its effects on the circulatory organs; the heart and blood vessels. There are four types of blood vessels; the arteries, the arterioles, the capillaries, and the veins. The aorta is the first blood channel where blood is pumped into the body from the heart. The blood then returns to the heart through the upper and lower vena cava. The heart is the pump for the circulatory system, as it contracts and then rests. When it contracts, it pumps blood into the arteries. This is known as the systole, or maximum phase. The diastole, or minimal phase is when the heart rests and then refills with blood from oneÕs veins. The blood pressure level is stated, in terms of how many millimeters of mercury would be lifted by the pressure of the blood in the arteries. (Madias, 1978)

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is classified as having a diastolic reading of 90 mmHg or higher, or a systolic reading of 140mmHg or higher. Nearly one in every four adults, an estimated 43 million Americans, has high blood pressure. (Screening for Hypertension, 2001) High blood pressure increases the chances of getting heart or kidney disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and ruptured aortic aneurysm, among other diseases. Currently, heart disease is the leading killer in the United States, and stroke is the third. The main characteristic of hypertension is when the arterioles contract as a result of nerve or hormone stimuli resistance to the blood flow and builds up. A single reading of high blood pressure gives no warning; therefore it is extremely important that people check their blood pressure on a regular basis. By noticing that it is high, one can take steps to lower it before it is too late. Even if it is not high, one can still learn how to prevent it from becoming high. (How to Prevent High Blood Pressure, 2001)

There are various factors that affect oneÕs blood pressure. These factors include, but are not limited to, anxiety, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, pain, and eating habits. (Screening for Hypertension, 2001) Heredity is also a contributing factor to hypertension. Before the age of 50, hypertension is more likely to develop in men. By ages 55-60, there are more women affected than men. This is often due to the hormonal differences that take place during menopause. Changes in ones weight, whether it increases or decreases, can also produce modest changes in blood pressure. Hypertension is more prevalent in overweight people. Kidney disease is also a cause of high blood pressure, as the interference with the excretion of salt and water leads to an increased blood volume. Over production of the adrenal glands has been shown to cause hypertension. Studies have shown that certain birth control pills also cause a rise in blood pressure during the first six months of taking the medication. Usually blood pressure will return to normal within the first six months of discontinuance of the pill. Lastly, there are various psychosocial factors that influence blood pressure. Stress can be associated with a transient rise in blood pressure. (Madias, 1978)

Monitoring Blood Pressure

It is important to keep an accurate record of blood pressure over an extended period of time. This record enables one to provide oneÕs Primary Care Physician (PCP) with average blood pressure readings, which will allow the PCP to give accurate assessments, monitoring and diagnoses if necessary. By monitoring blood pressure on a regular basis at home, it can often help to alleviate hypertension because it is not taken at a doctorÕs office. The stress of a doctorÕs office can cause a personÕs blood pressure to go up 20-50 points higher than his/her average blood pressure. (Walgreens, no year given) Blood pressure monitoring at home represents the most accurate and average readings because of the comfortable, relaxed environment. With early detection, treatment increases five-year survival from near zero to seventy five percent as it is shown that, there is a direct relationship between the magnitude of blood pressure elevation and the benefit of lowering pressure. The American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians, recommend that all adults eighteen years and older be screened for hypertension every one to two years. However, it is still important to maintain a consistent record of ones average blood pressure in order to provide accurate diagnoses. (Screening for Hypertension, 2001)


Our materials included three blood pressure monitors for our testing, twenty first-year Architecture/Design students, and twenty first-year Western students. Our materials also included a questionnaire and survey. (See attached)

[A picture of one of the blood pressure monitors in use]

Our experimental design was to take the blood pressure of the twenty Architecture/Design and twenty Western students twice a week between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight. During this time we took their blood pressure and asked them a series of questions pertaining to factors that influence stress. Although our group discussed measuring the blood pressure of Architecture/Design students at studio, we determined that readings taken at studio would be an inconsistent factor in our study. Western students have no studio equivalent. Therefore, all blood pressure readings took place at Peabody and Mary Lyon residence halls.


We created a Power Point presentation, which gave an overview of our project. This presentation included background information of the circulatory system, how blood pressure is taken, and the definitions of such terms as diastolic and systolic. At this point in our presentation, we divided the class into their lab groups and gave students the opportunity to test their classmatesÕ blood pressure. By doing so, students saw how easy it is to monitor blood pressure, which gave them a deeper understanding of the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring. We also handed out a questionnaire found in the The Cincinnati Enquirer that showed different dependents that can affect blood pressure. (See attached)

[Students learning about a sphygmomanometer]

[Another example of class invovlement]


Download our powerpoint presentation HERE!

We compared the following factors: major of our participants with the stress level (which was a personal evaluation), gender, major and stress level, major and pulse, major and sleep, major and hours of homework (which was also a personal evaluation), major and systolic readings, gender and systolic readings, as well as the gender and diastolic readings; for all of these comparisons the p-value is over point five, therefore we fail to reject the Null Hypothesis. Which means that any differences in the data occurred by chance.
We also did comparisons with location and sleep, and major and diastolic readings. For these comparisons the p-value was less than 0.05 (with location and sleep having a value of .02904, and major and diastolic readings .0094) so we reject the Null Hypothesis. As there is a significant difference in the data.

For most of the comparisons that were made, we found no significant difference. We attribute this to the many factors that can affect blood pressure. Factors such as diet, exercise, etc. may have an effect on the blood pressures of the participants. Furthermore, when the participants rated their stress level, they may have exaggerated or underestimated their stress level. This measuring system was based solely on the opinion of the participant.
There were a few instances in which we found p-values that were less than 0.05. For instance, in the comparison of hours of sleep vs. dorm, Mary Lyon residents reported more hours of sleep per night than Peabody. Some possible explanations for this difference could be the ratio of females to males living in the dorms. Mary Lyon houses 75% female residents, and none of the male residents are first-year Western majors. However, Peabody houses 50% female and 50% male residents. Our lab group is predicting that a primarily female dorm is quieter and more conducive to sleep.

Another comparison that showed a significant difference was the diastolic readings between Western and Architecture/Design students. The Western students had higher diastolic readings than the Architecture/Design students, the opposite of what our group expected. This clash could be due to a number of variables that deal with lifestyles. For example, the Western students could have poor diets and the amount of time they spend exercising, etc. There was a difference when comparing dorms, though. When comparing the two dorms, the test subjects at Mary Lyon clearly show a higher mean diastolic blood pressure. The p-value from the t-test came out to .0213, a number low enough to reject the Null Hypothesis. This means thereÕs a significant difference between the two sets of data, and the diastolic readings from the Mary Lyon test subjects were significantly higher than those of Peabody. The mean systolic blood pressure readings showed an even greater division between the dorms. Again, Mary Lyon test subjects displayed higher readings than those of Peabody. So much higher that the p-value for the t-test came out to .0001. With a figure like that, we can completely reject the Null Hypothesis.

To further explore these inexplicable results, our research group distributed a survey created by psychologists that examines factors of oneÕs lifestyle that influence the vulnerability to stress. The results from this survey showed no significant difference (no p-values over 0.05) between the vulnerability level of Architecture/Design and Western students. There were also no significant differences in the comparisons of dorms and gender. The survey determined a person healthy if she/he had a score of thirty of lower. The mean scores from our data collection display borderline unhealthy lifestyles. One group, Architecture/Design majors that live in McKee, had a mean score of 30.5, half a point above limit for a healthy lifestyle. Almost all the mean scores from the other groups were less than four points below thirty. Only one group, Architecture/Design majors that live in Mary Lyon, had a mean scored that displayed a clearly healthy lifestyle: their mean score was 18.75.
We found our results were contradictory to our hypothesis. While Architecture/Design students did more hours of homework, their blood pressure readings and stress levels were not significantly higher than those of Western students. What our study could not account for were the individual ways students dealt with their particular stressors. Stress is not so much dependent upon what an individual does, but how an individual reacts to what is done. Theoretically, a student with ten hours of work to complete could be less stressed than a student with five hours of work to complete.

Although there were few significant differences in the results, there were noticeable differences in the graphical representation of those results.



You'll need Apple's Quicktime to view quicktime movies.

  • Quicktime Movie--Studio
  • Quicktime Movie--Paige
  • Quicktime Movie--HaHa
  • Quicktime Movie--The Truth


    How to Prevent High Blood Pressure. WebMd.com. Retrieved on October 15, 20001 from on-line database http://my.webmd.com/context/content/article/1680.50589.

    Levine. J, & Miller, K. (1994). Biology: Discovering Life.Lexitong,
    Massachusetts:D.C. Heath and Co..

    Madias, Nicolaos E. (1978). Blood Pressure. Arandel Publishing Co., Inc..

    Miller, L.H, & Smith, A.D. (1993). The Stress Audit. Brookline, Massachusetts: Biobehavioral Associates. (Published in The Cincinatti Enquirer, October 10, 2001)

    ReuterÕs. (2001).High-Normal Blood Pressure Poses Heart Risk. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine.Retrieved on-line at AOL on October 15, 2001.

    Screening for Hypertension. WebMd.com. Retrieved on October 15, 2001 from on-line database http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1680.50597.

    Stress and College Students. University of Florida. Retrieved on December 2, 2001 from on-line database http://www.counsel.ufl.edu/selfHelp/studentStress.asp

    Walgreens. (no year given). Blood pressure monitor with adjustable inflation. Ridgefield Park: no author given.

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