Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gabriel Ybarra

Second Advisor

Dr. Jody Nicholson

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. George Rainbolt


The current study investigated influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on university student stress, coping, and somatic health through exploratory analyses as cross sectionally compared to university student samples collected prior to and during the pandemic. 483 emerging adult participants were collected total, 262 surveyed via Health Psychology and Physiology courses prior to the pandemic and 221 were surveyed via UNF’s SONA system. Consenting participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale -14 (PSS-14), Ways of Coping Scale, and Physical Symptoms Checklist Questionnaire. Referencing literature based on student stress, coping, and somatic health as outcomes of non-normative events, it was predicted that pandemic era students would report increased rates of perceived stress, ways of coping, and somatic complaints when compared to pre pandemic era students. Null hypothesis testing yielded non-significant results, prompting further exploratory analyses investigating clinical thresholds for perceives stress and ways of coping subscale significance. Using results from hypothesis one, a secondary hypothesis predicted escape avoidance and planful problem solving coping to mediate the relationship between perceived stress and somatic complaints prior to and during the pandemic. Mediations revealed escape avoidance as a significant mediator between perceived stress and somatic complaints at both pandemic time points, while planful problem solving mediated this relation during the pandemic only. Clinical implications of the current study provide insights into improving stress perception and somatic health through ways of adaptive coping. Limitations to assumption violation, sampling, and experimental design lend directions for future research.