The current paper presents the researcher’s attempt to understand the sources of stress that medical students have. The study explores the interrelation between stress and the quality of life and academic performance of medical students. Specifically, the hypothesis is made that the quality of student’s life can be improved if the stress in their lives is reduced, and this positive change in life leads to positive academic and emotional results. A self-administered study questionnaire and Holmes and Rahe stress scale form the basis of the research. 49 senior and 51 junior medical students from the medical college participate in the experiment.
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The self-administered study questionnaire for the respondents consists of three sections: student-life stress, health-related quality of life, and a demographic section. To measure stress according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the respondents are asked to give stress points for life events in the past year. All statistical analyses are performed with the SPSS-PC Version 11.0 statistical package. Stress points for life events in the past year are added and compared with the scale stress-disease risk scale.
Female students are expected to experience more stress than male ones which means that their academic performance and life, in general, suffers more. The expected findings are that stress negatively influences the quality of students’ life and their academic performance. This implies that through minimizing stress both in students’ personal and academic life the quality of life and academic performance will be improved.
Stress is one of the most misused words in the medical profession according to Dr. Cecil Myer’s commentary in The Sun (Myer, 2001, p. 34). This happens because psychiatrists have admitted being a pain at times to explain what stress is really about. Any uncomfortable situation in life is labeled as stress. Some people even confuse boredom with stress and at times blame it for random illnesses and poor academic performance. Stress is a medical issue forms the basis of the current research.
Academic pressure and stress are considered to have a great influence over the quality of performance and life of the students and several studies have proved that as the stress in academic activities increases the physical quality of students is affected. “Academic stress is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and physical illness.” (MacGeorge) However, along with the physical condition and quality, the psychological quality of students is also affected. Thus, the mounting academic stress in the life of modern students has an enormous impact on the quality of their academic performance. The present research seeks to explore the essence of this impact.
Research Question and Hypothesis
The research question proposed is “Can the quality of life of students be improved if stress in their life is reduced?” The research hypothesis that will follow is “The quality of student’s life can be improved if the stress in their lives is reduced, and this positive change in the life will lead to positive academic and emotional results.” It is mainly because stress in life is inversely proportional to the quality of life.
In Academic Stress, Supportive Communication, and Health (2008) E. MacGeorge et al. investigate a number of negative health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and physical illness. The scientists propose to use supportive communication received from students’ friends and family to reduce the influence of academic stress on students’ health. It is observed that as instrumental support increases the association between academic stress and depression decreases.
In the exploratory study A Qualitative Assessment of Personal and Academic Stressors among Korean College Students (2005) a group of researchers has explored the patterns of stressors expressed by Korean students. The two most frequently reported personal stressors were “finance” and “future career plans”, the two most frequently academic stressors were “grades and competition” and “being equipped for future career success” (Lee et al, 2005, p. 447). The findings indicate that the respondents are conscious of uncertainty in their future life and suffer from stress that this uncertainty arises.
The study Sources of Stress Among College Students conducted by Ross et al. (1999) is another attempt to understand sources of stress for college students. The researchers identified that 38% of the stressors were intrapersonal, 28% environmental, 19% interpersonal, and 15% academic (Ross et al., 1999, p. 312). For the current study, the research serves as a kind of example of how the experiment should be conducted: which potentially stressful situations should be addressed and how the data obtained should be analyzed.
The group of researchers headed by Gireesh V. Gupchup examined the association between student-life stress and health-related quality of life among Doctor of Pharmacy students. For the current research, this study is of special importance as it focuses on the problems that medical students face. The authors argue that the intense curriculum may produce stress on the pharmacy student’s life. In the course of the research, they establish the moderate, negative relationship between perceived student-life stress levels and the mental component of health-related quality of life among medical students.
A Prospective Analysis of Stress and Academic Performance in the First Two Years of Medical School (1999) by Stewart et al. presents data on the relationship between stress and academic performance. The first-year medical students participated in the experiment: first, prior to beginning classes and then 8 months later. At both stages, personality variables and stress management strategies were assessed. Premedical academic scores and grades 8 months later were obtained. The research showed that pre-medical-school academic performance predicted performance in medical school. Academic performance before and during medical studies was negatively related to reported stress levels.
The sample will be drawn from the medical college (Globe Institute Technology) where I work as the Dean of Students’ Services. Cluster sampling is used as respondents from a certain area are selected: In the first stage, a sample of the area is chosen (the medical college), in the second stage a sample of respondents within this area is elected. Of 100 respondents 49 will be the 3rd and the 4th year students (coded as a senior) and 51 will be enrolled as 1st and 2nd year students (coded as junior). Inclusion criterion presupposes the involvement of students who are willing to disclose their health status and academic performance.
As for the exclusion criterion, students who have obvious health problems will not participate in the experiment. The respondents will be asked to respond to the self-administered study questionnaire (69 questions), and to evaluate how stress affects their health according to Holmes and Rahe stress scale.
Human Subject Issues
The project involves data on individual humans. No physical or medical testing of any type is involved. No deception of the participant is needed for the study. The research does not involve any invasion of privacy or the accessing of confidential information about people without their permission. The project does involve the collection of materials that could be considered of a sensitive, personal, biographical, medical, or psychological nature.
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Conceptualization and Operationalization
Gender, age, marital status, and current year of studies are independent variables of the study; types of stressors, reactions to stressors, and academic performance of the students are dependent variables.
Conceptual definitions of gender range from its synonymic relation with sex to the association of gender with females or discrimination (Pryzgoda & Chrisler, 2000, p. 25). In the current study, gender is understood as different biological sexes. Conceptual definitions of age include the durability of someone’s existence, a historic period, a prolonged period of time, and a time of life. The latter defined in years is taken as an operational definition for the current research.
Marital status implies the matrimonial status of each individual in relation to the marriage laws or customs of the country. In this research the marital status is identified through the four perspectives: never married, married, widowed, and divorced. The current year of studies refers to the year of studies the respondent is at while the research is being conducted.
There exist different classifications of types of stressors and reactions to stressors, in the current paper we use the one suggested by Gadzella: types of stressors are frustrations, conflicts, pressures, changes, and self-imposed, reactions to stressors are physiological, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive (operational definition).
Academic performance is investigated through the exploration of students’ GPA. “Grade point average (GPA) is one widely accepted means of determining academic success and the degree to which students have learned what they are expected to learn.” (McAloon, 1994, p. 13) In the current research students’ GPA for the past year is considered.
The self-administered study questionnaire for the respondents will consist of three sections: student-life stress, health-related quality of life, and a demographic section. The Student-Life Stress Inventory by Gadzella will be used to collect information on the first issue. The Inventory will consist of two sections: types of stressors (frustrations, conflicts, pressures, changes, and self-imposed) and reactions to stressors (physiological, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive). The respondents will be offered to choose one out of five possible answers (1 = never, 2 = seldom, 3 = occasionally, 4 = often, 5 = most of the time) to each of the 51 questions of the inventory. The study presupposes the use of total inventory scores for calculations.
Health-related quality of life will be measured using the Medical Outcome Study SF-12 Health Questionnaire (explores physical and mental domains of health-related quality of life). Demographic variables to collect are gender, age, marital status, race, and current year of studies.
To measure stress according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the respondents will be asked to give stress points for life events in the past year. The respondents will be offered 39 life change units for evaluation. Stress points for life events in the past year will be added and compared with the following scale: score of 300+: at risk of illness; a score of 150-299+ risk of illness is moderate; score 150-: slight risk of illness.
The student’s GPA will be obtained from the college administration.
In obtaining information from the chosen respondents we have first to cultivate the students’ confidence and earn their trust. For this, the students will be informed about the most important issues surrounding the relationships between medical studies and stress. Utmost care should be taken to avoid pushing the students in altering their would-be responses. Students’ intercourse while answering the questions offered is unacceptable as this may prevent them from airing their own views.
The questionnaires will be administered to students during regular class time with the permission of the instructors. Data will be obtained during the week after the fall semester break. Questionnaires will be administered during the same week in order to minimize the effect of varying stress levels that may have occurred during the semester.
Descriptive statistics will be used to characterize the sample. The obtained scores will be compared for females and males using independent t-tests (across the stated years of studies). The relationship between Student-Life Stress Inventory scores and health-related scores will be assessed using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients. All statistical analyses will be performed with the SPSS-PC Version 11.0 statistical package.
The research seeks to explore the interconnection between the stresses that medical students experience, the quality of their lives, and academic performance. Female students are expected to experience more stress than male ones which means that their academic performance and life, in general, suffers more. The expected findings are that stress negatively influences the quality of students’ life and their academic performance. This implies that through minimizing stress both in students’ personal and academic life the quality of life and academic performance will be improved.
Limitations of the study include subjectivity of the respondents while answering the questions, possible deception in their answers, statistical error of sampling, and limitations of the research by the geographic framework of one educational institution.
Considering these limitations the study presents significance both for students and for social workers. The students are responsible for the future of the country, it is therefore absolutely crucial that they are able to perform in a relaxed atmosphere so that the results will be optimal.
The research holds importance to the college as it highlights the problems which the students face in their everyday lives and brings forth the reasons for the high-stress levels among students, which very often results in their poor performance due to the negative effect of stress on their lives. Medical students who enthusiastically take up the medical profession but appear to complete it successfully because of the high levels of stress in their lives will benefit from the research.
Those engaged in social work practice will get insights into college students’ stresses and their correlation with students’ academic performance. Professionals in this sphere will get to know how to inform students about various ways to minimize instances of harmful stress and make use of beneficial stress. Moreover, the research will explain the use of different techniques to get the necessary data from students that are also very important in the work of the social practitioner.
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