Women in Health Service Psychology Programs: Stress, Self-Care, and Quality of Life

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Due in part to gender roles and their socialization as caretakers, women in health service psychology (HSP) programs may be vulnerable to experiencing stressful events that negatively impact their professional and academic functioning. Two constructs are particularly germane to understanding the stress experienced by women in HSP programs: quality of life and self-care. However, scant literature exists on women in HSP programs, especially concerning the relations among stress, self-care, and quality of life. The purpose of our study was to address some of the conceptual–methodological deficiencies in the literature by empirically testing the application of the health promotion model to women in HSP doctoral programs. The investigation tested the extent to which self-care activities moderated the negative association between stress and quality of life (QL) in a sample of 558 women enrolled in HSP programs throughout the United States. The most salient findings were (a) women in HSP programs, compared to other populations, evidenced substantively higher stress levels and lower self-care and overall QL; (b) stress was uniquely and inversely, though modestly, related to QL, whereas self-care and its moderating effects were not; and (c) self-care and quality of life were best conceptualized and analyzed as multidimensional constructs. The findings suggest stress levels may have a significantly larger effect on QL than self-care for women in HSP doctoral programs. Results also suggest QL and self-care are multidimensional constructs and need to be analyzed as such. Implications for theory, practice, and research are discussed.

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