The relationship between stress and life-style of students at the Faculty of Medicine of Oporto.

Elizabete Loureiro, Teresa McIntyre, Rui Mota-Cardoso, Maria Amélia Ferreira


Different studies have demonstrated that there are significant changes in the health and habits/life-style of university students, and it seems that Medical students also reveal a significant vulnerability to the adoption of health risk behaviours. The present study aims to (1) characterize the main sources of academic stress of the Medical School students of the University of Porto as well as the intensity with which they are experienced, (2) investigate the variations in academic stress and psychosocial variables, due to gender, year of course and displacement from home and (3) contribute, for the first time, to the understanding of stress and life-style of medical students in Portugal. The empirical study included a sample of 251 students from all 6 years of the course (160 females and 91 males), evaluated by the following instruments: (1) The Inventory of Sources of Academic Stress in Medical Education (ISASME), and the Portuguese versions of (2) the Brief Personal Survey (BPS), (3) the General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ-12), and (4) the Interpersonal Behaviour Survey-Brief (ICIBrief). In terms of overall levels of stress (GHQ-12), a prevalence of 58.2% of clinically significant stress symptoms was found, with the students from the basic cycle and those who are living away from home, presenting higher levels of stress. In terms of life-style, 47% of the students revealed health risk behaviours, with eating habits, physical exercise, alcohol and drug consumption, and body image being the main problem areas. Gender and year of course seem to have a significant influence on the variables studied, being the female students those who present higher levels of academic stress, stress responses (pressure/overload, physical distress, anxiety, anger/frustration, inefficiency, depression and loss of control), and low levels of coping confidence; the students of the basic cycle reveal higher levels of stress in managing their life-style (academic stress), general stress symptoms and stress responses. This study calls attention for the need of preventive intervention with medical students in order to prevent negative consequences of stress and improve their life-style by promoting individual and social resources.

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