Background: Little is known about specific health risks and resources and their development influencing medical students' stress.
Aim: To evaluate the development of quality of life and study-related behavior and experience patterns among medical students.
Methods: Data were collected in the first (n = 112 of 182 in 2006) and the fourth semesters (n = 164 of 176 in 2008). The instruments "Work-Related Behavior and Experience Patterns" (AVEM, including four main patterns: "Health", "Unambitious," "Overexertion," "Burnout") and "Short Form-12 Health Survey (SF-12)" were used at both points in time.
Results: The medical students scored significantly lower on mental health compared with reference samples of young adults. The proportion of students with a healthy pattern decreased from 47.3% (95% CI 38.1-56.5%) in the first semester to 36.9% (29.4-44.4%) in the fourth semester. This corresponded to an increase in the proportion of students at risk for burnout from 7.1% (2.3-11.9%) to 20% (13.8-26.2%). At both time points, female students had a higher risk for overexertion and a lower prevalence of a healthy pattern than male students.
Conclusion: Our data provide evidence for a decrease in the healthy pattern and an increase in the burnout pattern. Intervention is needed, especially for students at risk for burnout.