Original Research

Model of coping with occupational stress of academics in a South African higher education institution

Melissa du Plessis
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 46 | a1714 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v46i0.1714 | © 2020 Melissa du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 July 2019 | Published: 24 June 2020

About the author(s)

Melissa du Plessis, Department of Human Resource Management, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Orientation: Occupational stress is a phenomenon that affects the physiological and psychological health and well-being of academic staff in higher education institutions (HEIs).

Research purpose: The purposes of this study were: (1) to test a structural model of occupational stress and coping for academics in a South African HEI, and (2) to determine whether the proposed adaptive coping strategies positively and significantly predict coping success.

Motivation for the study: Occupational stress among academics will increase unless strategies and mechanisms are adopted to cope with the environmental demands in their profession. Higher education institutions seeking to promote academics’ health and well-being should first comprehend the complexities of the coping process. There is thus a need for a more holistic view of coping with occupational stress in academia.

Research approach/design and methods: A quantitative approach, using a cross-sectional, survey design, collected 305 responses from a convenience sample of academics. The Comprehensive Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CCSQ) was administered to the participants. Statistical analyses included descriptive statistics, thematic analysis, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, standard multiple regression analysis and structured equation modelling.

Main findings: The theoretically hypothesised model had a good fit with the empirically manifested structural model. Academics experience both organisation- and job-specific stressors that elicit distressing emotions. Academics adopt adaptive coping strategies, which are associated with coping success.

Practical/managerial implications: Higher education institutions should implement interventions to eliminate occupational stressors and should encourage academic staff to adopt adaptive coping strategies by arranging stress management courses and Affect Regulation Training (ART).

Contribution/value-add: The study contributes toward a more holistic view of coping with occupational stress in academia, especially within a South African higher education context.


occupational stress; coping; emotion regulation; academia; higher education.


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Crossref Citations

1. Job Demands and Job Resources of Academics in Higher Education
Mineshree Naidoo-Chetty, Marieta du Plessis
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 12  year: 2021  
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.631171