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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 180-184

Evaluation of stress level and its association with personality traits among trainees at an armed forces training establishment

1 Department of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 O/o DGMS (Navy), IHQ MoD, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-Feb-2021
Date of Decision15-Apr-2022
Date of Acceptance21-Apr-2022
Date of Web Publication10-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Surg Capt (Dr) Saurabh Bobdey
Department of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune - 411 001, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmms.jmms_26_21

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Introduction: Stress cannot be considered a simple “stimulus-response reaction,” but it is a complex interaction between an individual and the environment, comprising subjective perception and evaluation of stressors and then responding in a highly personalized manner. The present study was conducted to assess the personality traits of trainees and explore their association with levels of perceived stress. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study was conducted on 911 trainees. For data collection, two instruments were used – Perceived Stress Score by Cohen for assessing stress among the subjects and Revised Neuroticism–Extraversion–Openness Personality Inventory for personality assessment. Results: Overall, the total mean Perceived Stress Score was 12.60 ± 5.62 indicating less than average stress. Only 10.98% of those tested had a score of 20 or more indicating perception of very high stress. Trainees with high perception of stress had significantly higher scores of neuroticism (57.82 ± 9.02, P < 0.05) including all the subfacets. In contrast, trainees with low or average stress perception had significantly higher scores of extraversion (53.57 ± 8.03, P < 0.05) and conscientiousness (54.25 ± 10.30, P < 0.05). Conclusion: The present study is the first of its kind which tries to not only assess the stress levels among trainees but also explore and compare their personality characteristics. The study brings out that majority of the trainees had average stress and provides definitive evidence of association between high neuroticism, low extraversion, and perception of high stress, and offers a window of opportunity to explore options for remedial action such as incorporation of stress coping-up techniques in Armed Forces training curriculum.

Keywords: Extraversion, neuroticism, personality, stress

How to cite this article:
Bobdey S, Mookkiah I, Narayan S, Pawar A A. Evaluation of stress level and its association with personality traits among trainees at an armed forces training establishment. J Mar Med Soc 2022;24:180-4

How to cite this URL:
Bobdey S, Mookkiah I, Narayan S, Pawar A A. Evaluation of stress level and its association with personality traits among trainees at an armed forces training establishment. J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 24];24:180-4. Available from: https://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/text.asp?2022/24/2/180/353650

  Introduction Top

The term stress initially originated from the field of engineering, where “stress” leads to “strain.” However, in physiology, that difference is blurred, and one considers “stress” as the cause, the “stressor,” as well as the reaction to the stressor.[1] Most frequently, in medical parlance, stress is described as an adaptive reaction of living organisms in response to internal or external threats to homeostasis. It is considered a multifarious defense mechanism resulting from complex interaction of many dynamic biological, psychological, and social interconnected factors of nature.[2] Thus, though in recent times, the term stress is often used in a negative connotation, it is not always bad. Some amount of stress is essential to make an individual perform efficiently, on the other hand, too much stress can have catastrophic effects on mental and physical health.

Individuals vary widely in how they respond to stress. The same stressor may be manageable for one person and overwhelming for another. Thus, the response to the stressors is a complex phenomenon which is determined by numerous dynamic individual factors such as developmental, genetic, and neurobiological which are deeply rooted in the larger sociocultural environment (e.g., family, political, and economic).[3],[4]

In this era of asymmetric warfare involving unconventional adversaries and methods, the success of any military operation will be determined by individual intelligence, mental resilience, and ability to maintain logical thinking rather than only physical fitness and availability of sophisticated armaments. Therefore, the present study was conducted to assess the personality traits of trainees in an Armed Forces training establishment and explore their association with levels of perceived stress.

  Materials and Methods Top

This was a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study. A total of 911 out of 1024 trainees participated in the study. The remaining 113 trainees could not participate because of hospitalization, sick leave, or outstation visits; all the trainees before recruitment undergo rigorous screening for physical and psychological ailments, and only those who are completely fit are recruited. In addition, the trainees are also subjected to medical examination annually; hence, there were no inclusion/exclusion criteria. Informed consent was obtained after explaining the details of the study, and no trainee declined to participate. The subjects were assembled in groups of 150–200 in an air-conditioned hall and administered the questionnaire. Each session was of 3 h, and the principal investigator was present throughout the session to answer any query regarding the questions. The study had the approval of the research ethics committee of the institution.

For the data collection, two instruments were used, the Perceived Stress Score by Cohen[5] for assessing stress among the subjects. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress with good validity and reliability.[6] It is a ten-item scale with a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 40. The items in the questionnaire are designed to reveal how unpredictable and overburdened respondents find their lives. Participants rate the items on a four-point scale, ranging “Never” to “Very Often.” Personality characteristics of subjects with high stress were compared with subjects with low/average stress scores. Second, the Revised Neuroticism–Extraversion–Openness Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) was used for personality assessment. NEO PI-R consists of 240 items (questions) and is a PI-R which examines a person's “Big Five” personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness). Each main personality trait has six subcategories called facets.[7] Participants rate the items on a five-point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” The reported reliability coefficient of responses on the five scales ranges from 0.89 to 0.93 (alpha).[8],[9] The internal consistency and test–retest reliability of the NEO PI-R has also been found to be satisfactory in various populations, including India.[10],[11] The developer of PSS (Cohen et al., 1983)[5] has not provided any cutoffs for the level of perception of stress, hence, based on the scores of PSS obtained in our study and the opinion of experts, the trainees were divided into two groups – trainees with high perception of stress (Perceived Stress Score ≥20) and those with low or average perception of stress (Perceived Stress Score <20) and their personality characteristics were compared as obtained from NEO PI-R. The collected data were recorded in a computerized spreadsheet (Microsoft® Excel) and analyzed using SPSS software version 21.0 (SPSS, IBM, Chicago, IL, USA). Descriptive statistics used included frequencies, percentages, and measures of central tendency. Data were compared using Mann–Whitney U-test. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

  Results Top

This study was conducted on 911 trainees presently undergoing training in an Armed Forces Officers training establishment. The descriptive data are presented in [Table 1]. Overall, the total mean Perceived Stress Score was 12.60 ± 5.62 indicating average stress (a PSS score of <13 indicates < average stress, 13–19 average stress, and ≥20 indicates very high stress). Only 10.98% of the tested trainees had a score of 20 or more indicating perception of very high stress. All the trainees were also administered a 240-item personality assessment questionnaire (NEO PI-R). Trainees with high perception of stress had significantly higher scores of neuroticism including all the subfacets, namely Worry, Frustration/Quickness to Anger, Moodiness, Social Concerns, Self-Indulgence, Sensitivity of Stress, and Imagination. In contrast, trainees with low or average stress perception had significantly higher scores of extraversion and conscientiousness [Table 2]. There was no difference in the main dimension and subset scores of openness to experience and agreeableness [Table 3].
Table 1: Perceived stress levels among study subjects

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Table 2: Comparison of personality characteristics between study subjects with stress and study subjects with high stress

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Table 3: Summary of predominant personality traits among trainees with high and low perceived stress levels

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  Discussion Top

Personality traits refer to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It can be defined as “differences among individuals in a typical tendency to behave, think, or feel in some conceptually related ways, across a variety of relevant situations and across some fairly long period of time.”[12] Five broad dimensions are commonly used to describe the human personality which are known as “Big Five” personality traits. The five factors have been defined as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.[13] Out of the “Big Five” personality traits, neuroticism has been associated with impaired ability to cope with stress and is an important risk factor for stress-related disorders.[14] In our study, too, subjects who experienced high stress scored high on neuroticism and its subcategories, i.e., “Worry, Frustration/Quickness to Anger, Moodiness, Social Concerns, Self-Indulgence, and Sensitivity of Stress” [personality characteristics of the two groups are summarized in [Table 3]].

Although one of the most important predictors of stress appraisal is personal beliefs, personality is also known to be a major contributor to the variability in stress responses.[15] Researchers believe that personality is a collection of traits that can be explained by five main dimensions.[16] McCrae and Costa[16] proposed that these basic five dimensions comprise dynamic tendencies that operate between experience and action, resulting in the development of consistency in reactions to the environmental stimulus. Neuroticism constitutes the propensity toward emotional distress (e.g., nervousness, guilt, uselessness, and hopelessness). People who score high in neuroticism frequently experience more frequent and intense episodes of distress. Neuroticism is known to intensify both reaction and vulnerability to stress.[17] Extraversion, on the other hand, implies a more positive and enthusiastic approach to friendship, companionship, and positive social life. Individuals with high scores of extraversion are livelier and emotionally positive. The extraversion dimension of personality reduces vulnerability to stress and confers protection against distressing emotions. Thus, while personality trait of extraversion acts as protection against detrimental stressors, neuroticism does confer a particular vulnerability to stress.[17],[18] Studies have indicated that openness to experience and agreeableness facets have minor importance with regard to stress perception.[17] This explains the findings of our study, where no significant difference between the two groups was observed with regard to openness to experience and agreeableness, whereas subjects with high perceived stress were found to have significantly higher neuroticism and low extraversion. Neuroticism is also known to be a strong risk factor for the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder.[19]

Individual resilience forms a very important component of stress coping mechanism and is known to act as a buffer to deleterious effects of stress. It is often thought of as the capacity of the individual to bend, but not break, and to bounce back from adversity. According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is defined as the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.”[20] However, research has shown that individuals with high neuroticism engage in significantly more emotion-focused and avoidance coping than low-neuroticism participants regardless of what level of stress they are exposed to.[21] Thus, high neuroticism is not only associated with an increased risk of stress and depression but is also negatively associated with stress coping mechanisms.


The present study is the first of its kind conducted in an Armed Forces training establishment which tries to not only assess the stress levels among trainees but also explore and compare their personality characteristics. However, this study is not devoid of certain limitations which need to be acknowledged. First, the results are not generalizable to Armed Forces personnel as this study included only trainees undergoing training in a single institute. Second, as the study population was still undergoing training, therefore certain changes are bound to occur in their personality traits due to vigorous training and discipline, and these aspects cannot be accounted for at this stage. Third, despite best efforts, 113 trainees of total 1024 could not be sampled due to various reasons enumerated previously.

  Conclusion Top

Stress is a reality of modern era. The way an individual handles it depends a lot on his/her personality characteristics and determines whether this stress would act as a stepping stone to success or a stumbling block leading to failure. The present study undoubtedly proves the association between neuroticism and perception of high stress and provides a window of opportunity to explore options for remedial action such as incorporation techniques of coping up with stress and mental resilience training in the curriculum of Armed Forces training establishments.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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