, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 311-331

A biopsychosocial model of medical student distress

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Medical student distress was examined in two consecutive first-year classes (N=312) in September, before they interacted with the school regimen, and again in May before exams. Anxiety means were one SD above the normative mean for nonpatients at both times. The number of students reporting a significant level of depression doubled from September (N=36) to May (N=78). The correlation of distress in September and May was .40, indicating that for many students distress was enduring. A biopsychosocial model of initial distress explained more variance (36%) in the cross-validation sample than did any one variable alone. Distressed students had higher Type A scores. Also, anger held in was a risk factor for distress in students with a family history of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Students who hold anger in may experience prolonged stress which, coupled with a family history of CVD, could make them psychobiologically vulnerable to distress.

This research was supported by Grant 112/84A from the National Fund for Medical Education.