Psychological health of first-year health professional students in a medical university in the United arab emirates

Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2012 May;12(2):206-13. doi: 10.12816/0003114. Epub 2012 Apr 9.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the psychological health of first-year health professional students and to study sources of student stress.

Methods: All first-year students (N = 125) of the Gulf Medical University (GMU) in Ajman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), were invited to participate in a voluntary, anonymous, self-administered, questionnaire-based survey in January 2011. Psychological health was assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire. A 24-item questionnaire, with items related to academic, psychosocial and health domains was used to identify sources of stress. Pearson's chi-squared test and the Mann-Whitney U-test were used for testing the association between psychological morbidity and sources of stress.

Results: A total of 112 students (89.6%) completed the survey and the overall prevalence of psychological morbidity was found to be 33.6%. The main academic-related sources of stress were 'frequency of exams', 'academic workload', and 'time management'. Major psychosocial stressors were 'worries regarding future', 'high parental expectations', 'anxiety', and 'dealing with members of the opposite sex'. Health-related issues were 'irregular eating habits', 'lack of exercise', and 'sleep-related problems'. Psychological morbidity was not significantly associated with any of the demographic factors studied. However, total stress scores and academics-related domain scores were significantly associated with psychological morbidity.

Conclusion: Psychological morbidity was seen in one in three first-year students attending GMU. While worries regarding the future and parental expectations were sources of stress for many students, psychological morbidity was found to be significantly associated with only the total stress and the academic-related domain scores.

Keywords: Health professions; Medical student; Psychological stress; Undergraduate medical education; United Arab Emirates.