Perceived Stress and Cognitive Performance Among College And Middle-aged African American Adults: A Pilot Study

Student Classification


Faculty Mentor

Adrienne Aiken Morgan, PhD, Psychology, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University



Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-2021


Previous research shows that acute and chronic stress are related to cognitive function in adults. Few studies have examined these associations in African American adults. This study examined the correlations between perceived stress and cognitive performance in a pilot sample of college and middle-aged adults. We hypothesized that higher perceived stress would be associated with lower cognitive performance. Methods: This pilot study sample included 25 African American participants living in the Greensboro, NC area (mean age = 25.9, SD = 11.4; range =18-50 years). The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a global measure of perceived stress, was used to assess stress. To measure cognition, Digit Span (Forward &, Backward) and Digit Symbol Substitution (DSS) were administered. Results: Bivariate correlation and linear regressions showed there were no significant associations between perceived stress and cognitive function in this pilot sample, which rejected our hypothesis. There was a significant association between DSS and age (r = -.462, p =.05) indicating that among this sample, older age was associated with higher perceived stress. Conclusion: These pilot results suggest perceived stress is not associated with cognitive performance among this sample of African American adults. Our hypothesis was not supported, likely due to the small sample size of 25 participants. Future research should examine relationships between perceived stress in cognitive performance over time. Stress among African American college students and middle-aged adults may have long-lasting cognitive effects.

This document is currently not available here.