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Stress Sensitivity and Signs of Anxiety or Depression among First Year Clinical Dental and Medical Students

DOI: 10.4236/ojmp.2020.91002, PP. 7-20

Keywords: Perceived Stress, Stress Sensitivity, Anxiety, Depression, Dental Students, Medical Students, Clinical Education, Stress Management

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Abstract:

Background: Negative stress symptoms are reported in the literature among clinical dental and medical students and can include signs of anxiety or depression. However, very little has been researched about existing psychological preconditions of these students that could make them more vulnerable to negative stress symptoms. Objective: The aims were to explore first year clinical dental and medical students’ experiences of stress intensity, stress sensitivity and signs of anxiety or depression. Gender was also explored as a possible predictor of these psychosocial phenomena. Methods: First year clinical students at Aarhus University dental (n = 49) and medical schools (n = 59) were recruited to fill out a 45-item questionnaire that comprised demographics and three scales: Cohens Perceived Personal Stress (PPS-10), Stress Sensitivity Inventory (SSI) and Depression Anxiety & Stress Scale (DASS-21). Groups and genders were compared by frequency and using association statistics, bivariate odds ratios, nominal logistic regression and ANOVA. Results: Stress intensity perceptions were moderate to high for many. Dental students scored higher than medical students on all mean test scores. In general, women showed higher levels of stress than men. Dental students scored significantly higher than medical students on Depression, Anxiety and Chronic Stress with ANOVA tests. However, when gender, age and medical or dental student status were added into a logistic regression analysis in which high stress sensitivity was the main dependent variable, only high scores in perceived stress intensity and signs of depression and anxiety showed significant main effects. Conclusion: Present study confirmed the literature that reports high degrees of stress among dental and medical students. But more importantly, Stress Sensitivity Inventory appeared to be a reliable and excellent predictor of high perceived stress and signs of depression and anxiety. It can be useful to detect and prevent student psychosocial dysfunction in clinical learning environments. An important challenge for medical and dental educational institutions is to provide specific student emotional support as early as needed as well as to consider appropriate stress prevention curriculum reforms.

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