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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 273-277

Hopelessness during emerging adulthood: Contributions of anxiety

Centre for Health Psychology, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Date of Web Publication16-Oct-2014

Correspondence Address:
Suvashisa Rana
Centre for Health Psychology, University of Hyderabad, Central University Campus P.O., Gachibowli, Hyderabad - 500 046, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2278-344X.143074

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Context: During emerging adulthood, a person takes on several roles and needs to cope up with psychosocial challenges that are connected to an autonomous personal life. Hence, anxiety and its repercussions, though common in this phase, yet may produce a detrimental effect in their life. Aims: The objective of the study was to examine the contributions of anxiety to hopelessness of emerging adults during their transitional phase from late adolescence to adulthood. Settings and Design: The study involved a correlational design where anxiety, academic difficulty, age, and gender were predictors and hopelessness was the criterion. Materials and Methods: One hundred fifty university students, both men and women, in their emerging adulthood were selected, of which 132 completed the Institute of Personality and Ability Testing Anxiety scale, Beck's Hopelessness scale, and a single-item measuring the presence or absence of academic difficulty. These instruments were administered individually along with demographic details. Statistical Analysis Used: The data were analyzed by means of descriptive statistics, Pearson's product-moment correlations, simple and multiple linear regression analyses. Results: The results revealed that the anxiety along with academic difficulty and gender was found to contribute individually to hopelessness, whereas age was not. A significant combined contribution of anxiety, academic difficulty, and gender to hopelessness was observed. Of the five dimensions of anxiety, low self-control and tension were found to be significant predictors of hopelessness. Conclusions: Findings could be useful for screening the vulnerable persons, and also helpful in designing psychosocial intervention for promoting positive health.

Keywords: Anxiety, emerging adulthood, hopelessness, positive health

How to cite this article:
Rana S, Lall G, Mishra A, Nandinee D, Vincent K. Hopelessness during emerging adulthood: Contributions of anxiety. Int J Health Allied Sci 2014;3:273-7

How to cite this URL:
Rana S, Lall G, Mishra A, Nandinee D, Vincent K. Hopelessness during emerging adulthood: Contributions of anxiety. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Oct 1];3:273-7. Available from: https://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2014/3/4/273/143074

  Introduction Top

The term "emerging adulthood" is described as a culturally constructed period of extended adolescence that occurs in industrialized countries. [1] Individuals in this period, ranging between the age of 18 years and 25 years do not tend to view themselves as adolescents or adults as they are in the pursuit of identity exploration. Individuals in this transition need to cope up with psychosocial challenges that are connected to an autonomous personal life. Therefore, this phase of life is a sensitive period in an individual's life span. High rates of psychological morbidity, especially depression, and anxiety, are found among university students all over the world, who are in their emerging adulthood. The high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms among Turkish University students is reported. [2] Similar findings have been reported in India, where high rates of depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms have been found among young male adults. [3] Anxiety has been found to contribute greatly to depression among the university students in India. [4] It has been argued that the multiple internal and external stressors of emerging adulthood can contribute to significant alterations in mental health, for the better or the worse. [5] Research suggest that the five developmentally distinctive features of emerging adulthood-the age of identity explorations, age of instability, most self-focused age of life, age of feeling in-between, and age of possibilities-explain the vulnerability of substance use in this phase. [6] It is necessary to understand the mechanisms involved in anxiety due to the high prevalence rates as well as because the occurrence of this increases the likelihood of developing feelings of hopelessness which has links with suicidal ideation and behaviors.

Anxiety is a negative mood state characterized by bodily symptoms of physical tension and apprehension about the future. [7],[8] It is a physiological and emotional response to known or unknown causes that may range from a normal reaction to extreme dysfunction affecting decision-making, adherence to treatment, and quality-of-life. [9],[10] Anxiety has been often linked to hopelessness. Hopelessness is a system of negative expectancies concerning oneself and one's future life. [11],[12] It has been defined as the expectation that highly desirable outcomes will not occur and that one is powerless to change the situation. [13]

Studies done on adolescents have shown that anxiety and hopelessness are closely related. [14],[15] Anxiety is also found to have influence on suicidal behavior through its effect on hopelessness among adolescents. [16] Anxious temperament has been found to predict hopelessness. [17] The personality trait of neuroticism, characterized by levels of anxiety has been found to positively predict hopelessness [18] which in turn has been found to predict suicidal intent in young suicide attempters. [19] Anxiety, depression, and hopelessness are associated with adolescent suicidal behavior [20],[21],[22],[23],[24] and are generally thought to be more proximal influences of suicidal behaviors than other risk factors, such as poor scholastic performance or low family support.

Studies show that the anxiety has been associated with suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicide, and has been linked with events precipitating suicidal behaviors. Adolescent suicide attempters and suicide victims are more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. [25] Studies on the Indian general population have found a comorbidity of neurotic disorders and suicide. [26],[27] While extreme anxiety may influence imminent suicidal behaviors, across time the effects of anxiety may be more harmful, contributing to the development of depression and or hopelessness. A study conducted on the relationship between personality and psychological distress in India, for instance, found that individuals characterized by the presence of anxiety and its aspects such as suspicion and tension suffer from psychological distress. [28] High risk emerging adults are often vulnerable to poor scholastic achievement, lack of family support, and drug involvement. Considering this significant transition phase, the study attempted to examine the contributions of anxiety to hopelessness of emerging adults during their transitional phase from late adolescence to adulthood.

  Materials and Methods Top

The study was based on correlational design. Anxiety, academic difficulty, age, and gender of the participants were the predictors, and hopelessness was the criterion in this study.


There were 150 participants selected using convenient sampling from a university population, out of which 132 responded by signing the informed consent forms to participate in this study. Out of the 132 participants, 66.7% were women, and 33.3% were men. The age of the total participants varied from 20 to 30 years, the mean age being 23.03 years. Participants below the age of 20 and above the age of 30, and having known psychiatric problems were excluded from the study.

Research instruments

Beck's hopelessness scale

Beck's Hopelessness Scale consisted of 20 statements with each statement having two response options namely, true and false. [11] The total hopelessness score was found by adding the scores of all items. A score from 0 to 3 indicated minimal hopelessness, 4-8 indicated mild hopelessness, 9-14 indicated moderate hopelessness, and a score above 14 indicated the presence of severe hopelessness.

Institute of personality and ability testing anxiety scale

Institute of Personality and Ability Testing Anxiety Scale consisted of 40 statements measuring overt and covert anxiety. [29] A three-point rating scale was used to measure the participant's response. The scale measured anxiety on five dimensions-low self-control, emotional instability, suspicion, apprehension, and tension. Dimension-wise scores were obtained by adding the scores of all the items in each dimension. Total anxiety score was found by adding the scores of all the items, and it ranged from 0 to 80.

Personal details form

This form recorded the participant's name, age, gender, name of the course, and semester. An item having dichotomous response (yes or no) was included in this form to measure whether the participants faced problems with their study.


Students doing various different courses in the university were approached based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria using convenient sampling. The purpose of the study was explained, and informed consent was taken from the participants to participate in the study, prior to administration of the scales. As a part of the administration, rapport was established with the participants and instructions were then given to respond to each of the items of the scales. The instructions were given verbally to the participants as well as provided in a written form. Further communication and explanation were provided whenever necessary. The instruments were administered individually. The average time duration required by the participants to fill out the entire set of scales was 15-20 min. The participants were debriefed after each session of assessment.

  Results Top

The quantitative data were analyzed by means of descriptive statistics, simple, and multiple linear regression analyses. After testing the assumptions, simple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the individual contributions of anxiety, age, academic difficulty, and gender on hopelessness. Results revealed that anxiety explained statistically significant (15%) proportion of the variance in hopelessness, R2 = 0.15, adjusted R2 = 0.14, F (1, 130) = 22.13, P < 0.001. The relationship between anxiety and hopelessness was positive, β = 0.38, P < 0.001, with an increase in anxiety level being associated with an increase in the hopelessness levels. The relationship between age and hopelessness was not statistically significant, F (1, 130) = 1.34, P = 0.250. It was observed that academic performance explained statistically significant (9%) proportion of the variance in hopelessness, R2 = 0.09, adjusted R2 = 0.08, F (1, 130) = 12.77, P < 0.001. The relationship between academic difficulty and hopelessness was positive, β = 0.30, P < 0.001, with an increase in academic difficulty being associated with an increase in the hopelessness level. It was also evident that gender explained statistically significant (4%) proportion of the variance in hopelessness, R2 = 0.04, adjusted R2 = 0.03, F (1, 130) = 5.02, P = 0.027. The relationship between gender and hopelessness was positive, β = 0.193, P = 0.027, indicating that men had higher levels of hopelessness than women. No significant relationship was found between age and any other variables under study.

Since anxiety, academic performance, and gender individually had impact on hopelessness, a multiple linear regression analysis was done to examine their combined contributions. [Table 1] represents the results of the multiple linear regression. The results revealed that the combined predictors explained statistically significant (22%) proportion of the variance in hopelessness, R2 = 0.22, adjusted R2 = 0.20, F (3, 128) = 12.16, P < 0.01. All the three predictors, anxiety (β = 0.34, P < 0.01), academic performance (β = 0.19, P < 0.05), and gender (β = 0.19, P < 0.05) were significant individual predictors of hopelessness in the combined model.
Table 1: Combined contributions of anxiety, academic performance, and gender to hopelessness

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To analyze the combined contributions of the dimensions of anxiety to hopelessness, a multiple linear regression was done, and the results are presented in [Table 2].
Table 2: Combined contributions of dimensions of anxiety to hopelessness

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From [Table 2], it is revealed that the combined predictors - low self-control, emotional instability, suspicion, apprehension, and tension - explained statistically significant (16%) proportion of the variance in hopelessness, R2 = 0.16, adjusted R2 = 0.12, F (5, 126) = 4.65, P < 0.01. Low self-control (β = 0.19, P < 0.05) and tension (β = 0.21, P < 0.01) were the only significant predictors of hopelessness, neither emotional instability (β = 0.10, P = 0.26), suspicion (β = 0.11, P = 0.18) nor apprehension (β = −0.03, P = 0.74) were found to significantly predict hopelessness.

  Discussion Top

The results indicate that the relationship between anxiety and hopelessness is positive with an increase in anxiety levels leading to an increase in the levels of hopelessness, which needs to be properly addressed. Anxiety, both overt and covert, is found to contribute individually as well in combination with other factors to hopelessness. Among the other under the study, anxiety is the greatest contributor to hopelessness. This may be because anxiety is often associated with a sense of ambiguity and negative emotionality. Increased amounts of anxiety are known to effect individuals negatively. The presence of increased amounts of negativity in one's life may trigger a person to lose hope, thereby explaining the contribution of anxiety to hopelessness. This is in accordance with previous findings which suggest that anxiety and hopelessness are closely related. [14],[15],[16],[17]

The five dimensions of anxiety-low self-control, emotional instability, suspicion, apprehension, and tension-are found to have a combined impact on hopelessness. However, only low self-control and tension are found to significantly contribute to hopelessness. Therefore, individual-based intervention programs are to be designed to enhance the self-control and manage tension during the emerging adulthood for a smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood without deviant behavior. Apart from anxiety, gender and academic performance of the emerging adults are also found to be the predictors of hopelessness. This is in accordance with previous findings, which found that academic failure strongly predicts hopelessness in adolescents. [30] This may be because higher education and its expectations play an important role in the lives of individuals in their developmental stage of emerging adulthood. Many college students may find their academics very challenging and stressful. [31] Since higher academic achievements are considered as one of the major determinants of the career, increased difficulty in the area may contribute to increased levels of hopelessness.

Gender is found to significantly contribute to hopelessness during emerging adulthood with men experiencing higher levels of hopelessness. This is in accordance with previous findings which suggest that there is a gender difference in the hopelessness levels of male and female young adults. [32] Research suggests that adolescent males displayed more hopelessness than their female counterparts. [24] Contradictory findings have also been reported in adolescents, where no gender differences have been found. [32],[33]

There is no impact of age on hopelessness, indicating that hopelessness is present among the emerging adults irrespective of their age. This may be due to various reasons. Research has shown that entry into the labor market is often stressful and frustrating, especially for emerging adults with limited educational credentials. [34],[35] Even among the academically advantaged emerging adults, their extraordinarily high expectations for the workplace-their aspirations of finding work that not only pays well but also provides a satisfying and enjoyable identity fit-are difficult for reality to match and often require compromises of their hopes and dreams. [36] A possible explanation for mental health problems in emerging adulthood suggest that the life of adolescents is much less structured than that of children, adolescents and adults beyond the stage of emerging adulthood, which may lead them to feel lost. [37]

However, studies have found that hopelessness has a direct impact on suicidal behaviors. [16] Therefore, this study can help in screening out students who are at risk for suicidal behavior. It can also be helpful in designing psychosocial interventions targeted at reducing anxiety, thereby reducing hopelessness and suicidal ideation among the vulnerable emerging adults and promoting positive health. Various studies have found that apart from anxiety, depression is a major contributor to hopelessness. [15],[16] The role of depression in hopelessness is not examined in the current study. This explains the reason for anxiety, gender and academic difficulty contributing only partly to hopelessness. Examining other significant predictors can serve as a future direction of the study. The use of nonprobability sampling method, relatively small sample size, and the absence of qualitative data are the bottleneck of this study.

  Acknowledgments Top

We are thankful to the participants who shared their life experiences with us despite being busy in their studies.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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