EI and health behavior among university students

Another study examined the role of gender in the relationships between El and health behavior among university students. Malinauskas, Dumciene, Sipaviciene, and Malinauskiene (2018) used a random cluster sample from seven Lithuanian universities. The sample consisted of 1,214 first-to-fourth year university students between the ages of 19 and 25 (mean = 22.36). Gender breakdown was 597 males and 617 females. College majors included participants enrolled in humanities (34.2 percent) and social (36.2 percent) and technical sciences (29.6 percent) courses. The sample was balanced across years: 26.4 percent of them were first year, 25.6 percent of them were second year, 24.7 percent of them were third year, and 23.3 percent of them were senior year.

Emotional intelligence was measured using the SSRI (Schutte et al., 1998). This scale measures the participants’ perception about their emotional skills and consists of 33 Likert items answered on a five-point scale. The Lithuanian version of this instrument divides emotional intelligence into four separate components: using own positive emotional experience (optimism); expression of emotion (appraisal); understanding and analysis of emotion (social skills); and utilization of emotion (utilization). The Lithuanian version of the SSRI showed an internal consistency value of 0.79 and a test-retest reliability coefficient of 0.84 for the overall questionnaire.

Vickers, Conway, and Hervig (1990) reported the multidimensionality of health behaviors, which led to the development of the particular factors reported by the Health Behavior Checklist (HBC), which is a 40-item measure used to identify practices consistent with good health. The scale measures preventative behaviors that are aimed at maintaining or improving health, undertaken by persons who consider themselves to be in good health. The HBC assesses four categories of health behaviors: (1) the Wellness Maintenance and Enhancement dimension consists of items such as “I exercise to stay healthy”; (2) the Accident Control dimension includes items like “I fix broken things around my home straight away”; (3) the Traffic Risk-Taking dimension consists of items such as “I drive after drinking” which is a reversed score item; (4) the substance risk-taking dimension includes items like “I do not drink.” The Lithuanian version of the HBC showed an internal consistency value of .67 for the overall questionnaire.

There were no statistically significant differences among the students from different study years in college or from different areas of study. Gender was identified as the predictor for all categories of health behaviors. The first hypothesis that women had higher levels of emotional intelligence indicators than men, and that women engaged in the risk behaviors less frequently than men was confirmed. The second hypothesis that, at high levels of specific emotional intelligence indicators, women reported more frequent healthy behavior (i.e., wellness maintenance, less traffic risk-taking, greater accident-prevention control, and less substance risk-taking) than men at the same level of emotional intelligence. This finding was partially confirmed because only two exceptions were found: the first exception for the relationship between Appraisal and substance risk-taking and the second for the relationship between Utilization and traffic risk-taking. El indicators, except for social skills, were related to lower substance risk-taking behavior. These results are notable and have practical implications, especially in light of the psychosocial risk factors in Lithuania that include substance problems. The finding that university students who are lower in El are at higher risk for alcohol and substance use suggests that El programs at home and school could be beneficial for reducing addiction problems.

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