Campus Free Speech

Did Trump's Election Traumatize 25% of College Students? Study's Author Says No

"The students were not asked if they were traumatized and they were not asked if they experienced a traumatic event."

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ASU
Wars / Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency caused a quarter of surveyed college students to report systems of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to The Daily Mail's characterization of a new study on the subject.

The author of that study, Melissa Hagan of San Francisco State University, disputes this framing, however. Having reviewed the study myself, I tend to agree with the author that the media is overemphasizing the degree to which it confirms the triggered snowflake moniker for young people. Some were stressed by Trump's win, but to call them "traumatized" is to deploy spin.

The problem lies with The Daily Mail's incorrect assumption that the surveyed students—just under 800 individuals enrolled in psychology courses at Arizona State University—self-reported their feelings. But in fact, as the study makes clear, the participants merely answered questions about their levels of stress in the wake of Trump's presidential ascendancy (three months after the fact), and the study's authors tallied up the results. They found that about one in four students "met criteria for clinically significant symptoms." This was noteworthy because "elevated symptoms of event-related stress are predictive of future distress and subsequent PTSD diagnoses," according to the study.

It may be concerning that many students were so emotionally ill-equipped to deal with Trump becoming president. But these respondents did not claim to be suffering from trauma or PTSD; rather, the study's authors placed them in a high risk category based on their responses.

"The students were not asked if they were traumatized and they were not asked if they experienced a traumatic event," Hagan wrote in an email to Reason. "A 'trauma' is clinically defined as an event that involves exposure to death or actual or threatened experiences of physical harm or sexual assault."

In my experience covering student protests, college-aged activists are too quick to cite mental health problems as a symptom of their brave resistance to whatever is happening in national politics. The best example of this phenomenon was a 2015 article in the Brown Daily Herald, concerning Brown University students' whose political activities had reduced them to state of suicidal despair.

I suspect that many students overstate their anguish, and mistake garden-variety stress as a kind of serious trauma stemming from the inequities they perceive in the world. Life is undoubtedly hard, and the wokest of the young activists seem woefully unprepared to process this. But Hagan's study doesn't confirm the stereotype in the obvious way The Daily Mail reported. That a significant minority of students are somewhat stressed out a few months after the election—maybe because of Trump, maybe for other reasons—isn't such a shocking revelation.

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  1. I’m sure it’s for ‘other reasons’. In any event…

    I can’t believe we’re even having such a discussion. PTSD? Over an election?

    I hope in 10 years, when they’re minds fully develop and the lucky ones go on to fulfilling jobs and existence, realize how silly all this is.

    1. “Standing in line, marking time / Waiting for the welfare dime / ‘Cause the state can’t buy a job”, more like it. [Hopefully not] just saying it as an old man, but, the work ethic among these kids these days … isn’t.

    2. Liberalism breeds insecure, weak minded, children.

      1. And extra commas.

        1. “And extra commas.”

          Which leads to a tangential concern: Is using an Oxford Comma “cultural appropriation?”

          1. You didn’t use the Oxford comma correctly. You’re not listing a series. It would have been correct if you said: “insecure, weak-minded, and childish”. Yours should have read: “insecure, weak-minded children”.

            1. Commas are culturally insensitive and I’m never using one again. Also they are inefficient.

      2. They are survivors!

    3. Is PTSD another term that has been dumbed down to the point of meaninglessness?

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  2. I mean the Daily Mail exists for page clicks but this piece comes off as splitting hairs.

    They found that about one in four students “met criteria for clinically significant symptoms.” This was noteworthy because “elevated symptoms of event-related stress are predictive of future distress and subsequent PTSD diagnoses,” according to the study.

    It may be concerning that many students were so emotionally ill-equipped to deal with Trump becoming president. But these respondents did not claim to be suffering from trauma or PTSD; rather, the study’s authors placed them in a high risk category based on their responses.

    “The students were not asked if they were traumatized and they were not asked if they experienced a traumatic event,” Hagan wrote in an email to Reason. “A ‘trauma’ is clinically defined as an event that involves exposure to death or actual or threatened experiences of physical harm or sexual assault.”

    1. So they weren’t traumatized, they were just deeply affected by his winning that they are at high risk of future distress and PTSD?

      1. These are children who have never been told no, have been coddled, and believe they deserve things merely because they are alive. Anything that goes against their wants is traumatic.

    2. As near as I can tell, the complaint is simply that the students didn’t use the word “traumatized”.

      1. Exactly. This article is a word salad that boils down to splitting that hair

      2. Robby’s beef is that the DAILY MAIL the clickbaities click bait used a technically incorrect term of trauma in it’s headline when in fact they just were inhibiting the “criteria for clinically significant symptoms.”. This isn’t even in the top ten of the Daily Mails misleading headlines this hour.

    3. Trump’s election made it so much harder to survive sexual assault! You will never understand because you invalidate all the survivors’ experiences by not listening!

  3. Trumpatized.

    * drops sammich *

    1. I’m definitely stealing this.

      /high five

  4. Oh, it was at Arizona State? Well than I can guarantee you the study is worthless, as is everything else that comes from that school.

    1. ASU’s developed some interesting curriculums recently (you can apparently now get an MA in World War II Studies now that includes professional collaboration with the WW2 Museum in New Orleans), but their overall migration to every “social justice” intellectual fad over the last 15 years since I went to grad school there is downright embarrassing.

      1. Too much sun on exposed skin in Tempe.

        1. Too many damned Californians emerging from the ruins to plague another state.

  5. Of course, correlation is never supposed to equal causation, but that has never stopped many “scientists” from doing exactly that. Otherwise, they would never get their grants funded.

    The most obvious question this study raises-Do the students who reported higher stress levels already have mental health problems?

    1. Well… The article said the students surveyed were psychology students. I’ve never met a psychology major or professional psychologist who wasn’t crazy or unstable. They go into that field because they are fucked up and are curious about why and/or how to fix themselves.

      1. Psychology class is like web MD for mental hypocondriacs. And therapists tend to be seriously screwed up people. I dated a woman back in my 20s whose mother was a marriage counselor. She had been married five times.

        1. Exactly! lol

        2. I dated a Psych PhD student some years back. She was a nutcase, but man was she amazing in bed!

        3. See. It works!

  6. Slow news day?

    1. No, Robby is dead serious about this kind of stuff.

      It’s his specialty.

  7. Is it possible that some people might vote Republican in the midterms solely in the hope of seeing those (disputed) 25% of college students triggered again?

    The correct answer is “yes”.

    In fact, if you could guarantee me that progressives will pee their pants and run around in circles, screaming for weeks, if the Republicans don’t lose the House, I’d vote for the Republicans–just for that reason alone.

    It’s been two years, and I still LOL every time I think about it.

    This country would be a better place if progressives were knocked to their senses by election failures.

    1. I know a lot of right-leaning and centrist normies who are tired of the antics of the left and energized to politically oppose this crap. The left has been pushing too hard too fast and the center is starting to stand up to them

    2. I agree completely! There is something to be said for Trump being the greatest troll of all time, if nothing else. I didn’t vote for him last time, but I definitely will next time!

  8. OK, so some students are freaking out over politics, but the key point is it’s not PTSD level. Just very silly. Or worse than silly because they vote.

    1. Not PTSD level? That’s because those PTSD survivors are afraid to come forward. It’s vastly under reported.

  9. Good reading:

    The Coddling of the American Mind:
    In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education?and mental health

    Quotes (but read the whole article):
    If campus culture conveys the idea that visitors must be pure, with r?sum?s that never offend generally left-leaning campus sensibilities, then higher education will have taken a further step toward intellectual homogeneity and the creation of an environment in which students rarely encounter diverse viewpoints.

    When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.

    1. Reason interviewed the author – unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a transcript.

      https://bit.ly/2D2npgm

    2. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.

      It’s been going that way in academia ever since the Boomer shitlibs started taking professorships there. These desiccated hippies are starting to wake up to the fact that their generation’s zero-sum approach to the nation’s political fabric is now coming home to roost, and are subsequently attempting to find bridges to varied intellectual perspectives, but it’s really too little, too late at this point.

  10. When I was in school the last thing I worried about was political crap.

  11. For peace of mind, try this: Support unpopular candidates and positions, so you’re prepared in advance to see your favored side lose, and you won’t have the energy to freak out every time such a thing happens.

  12. Some were stressed by Trump’s win, but to call them “traumatized” is to deploy spin.

    Can we say triggered at least?

    1. No.
      You can’t say triggered ever again.
      Triggers are a part of a gun, and guns are evil incarnate and cannot ever be mentioned except in the context of a ban.

  13. In my experience covering student protests, college-aged activists are too quick to cite mental health problems as a symptom of their brave resistance to whatever is happening in national politics.

    Isn’t it all a kind of mental health issue, though?

  14. Robby desperately tries to put a good spin on a bunch of fascist college students who are mental midgets. News at 11

  15. I suspect that many students overstate their anguish, and mistake garden-variety stress as a kind of serious trauma stemming from the inequities they perceive in the world. Life is undoubtedly hard, and the wokest of the young activists seem woefully unprepared to process this.


    Stressing over a test = trump’s fault

    Nervous about asking the cutie for a date = trump’s fault

    Got a C in the test = trump’s fault

    The cutie laughed at you when you asked them out and now you’re miserable and all you can do is play your Smiths collection over and over while crying that no one will ever love you as much as you love them = trump’s fault

  16. Less than half of college students vote. So would the 25% traumatized be in the minority that did vote, or the majority that did not vote. Cause if you did not vote, you know exactly who first to take out your frustrations upon.

  17. A bullshit story about a bullshit story in a bullshit rag citing a bullshit survey in a bullshit university.
    Fertile ground here at Reason, for sure.

  18. It may be concerning that many students were so emotionally ill-equipped to deal with Trump becoming president. But these respondents did not claim to be suffering from trauma or PTSD; rather, the study’s authors placed them in a high risk category based on their responses.

    So they weren’t actually traumatized by it but the medical professional diagnosed them as being at high risk for being traumatized by it?

    Whew! For a minute I thought the whole field of psychology was complete bullshit; hyper focused on victims’ feelings and grievance mongering. It’s good to know that the media is responsible for inflating the victims’ feelings and I can sleep soundly a night knowing that it’s only grounded in the opinions of sycophantic credentialed morons.

  19. “” as the study makes clear, the participants merely answered questions about their levels of stress in the wake of Trump’s presidential ascendancy (three months after the fact), and the study’s authors tallied up the results. “”

    This is basically the same as how many of the “1-in-5 women are raped” ‘campus rape crisis’ stats were ginned up

    people were asked if they ever had sex while drunk. many did.

    the researchers, not the respondents, called that ‘rape’.

    i recall this being pointed out here many times, but i don’t recall if it was ever specifically cited by writers.

    1. You can have sex while sober in college? You learn something new every day.

  20. “…just under 800 individuals enrolled in psychology courses…”

    OK, that’s as far as it’s worth reading.

  21. For the love of all the is holy and good in this world, CAN YOU PLEASE STOP USING LINKS THAT COME FROM GOOGLE AMP OR MOBILE LINKS OR ANYTHING THAT IS NOT DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR DESKTOP!?!?!??!??!??!??!

    1. Desktop? Most millennials don’t even own a desk.

  22. All that I know, is I hope they were traumatized! These pussies deserve it. I hope they live in fear every single day of all the awesome shit Trump is doing, and all the stuff that he’s way too much of a cuck to ever actually do, but that would ALSO be awesome.

    These people are just a joke. The truth is society has always had a lot of weak, cowardly, pathetic people. The thing was, we used to tell them to buck up, and stop being pussies… A fair number did. The ones that didn’t, everybody just made fun of, and ignored their cowardly opinions, and moved along. The problem with society today is that we don’t simply ridicule these weaklings, which is all they are worthy of.

    Every persons opinion IS NOT worth listening to!

    When you have some dumb ass whining about something that is perfectly reasonable, you tell them they’re a pussy, and to shut their whore mouth. You don’t coddle them, or tell them their opinion matters… It DOES NOT MATTER. Their opinion is as worthless as they are!

    They’re weak idiots. They are to be ignored. This idea that we should consider the opinions of the dumb and weak is largely what has destroyed our civilization. I say we put an end to it!

  23. I went to grade school in the 60s. We had monthly drills where we got under our desks to practice our response to a nuclear weapon exchange. Saturday morning cartoons had some chirpy turtle PSA that gave instructions on all the ways you could survive a nearby atomic blast. Our town’s newspaper had the Vietnam body count prominently displayed above the fold on the front page.

    All my teachers were either in WW2 or children of parents who were in WW2. It was still very much present in all our thinking.

    I don’t remember any of us kids claiming huge psychological damage – most of what I remember of my first 25 years (with a noticeable gap between when I first discovered drugs and alcohol and when I learned to stop before I passed out) is that it was a pretty fun time. Not easy by any means, but fun.

    When my son was in a very liberal high school about 8 years ago, he came home one day and told me no other generation of kids had to grow up in a world as terrible as he was growing up in….

    Our public school system has a lot to answer for…

  24. Who gives a shit!

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