Perceived medical school stress and the development of behavior and experience patterns in German medical students

Med Teach. 2012;34(10):840-7. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.706339. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Background: Longitudinal data about the development of health risks and resources in relation to the performance of medical students are limited.

Aims: To evaluate the development of study-related experience and the correlation to performance.

Method: Medical students in the first (2006), second (2008), and fifth years (2011) of their studies were surveyed with standard instruments for quality of life, study-related behavior and experience, perceived medical school stress, anxiety and depression, and grades in their first major exam.

Results: The proportion of students with a healthy behavior and experience pattern decreased from 47.3% in the first year to 36.9% in the second year and 17.6% in the fifth year. This corresponded to an increase in the proportion of students at risk for burnout (7.1% first, 20% second, 19% fifth year). Students with a healthy behavior and experience pattern scored higher in self-perceived performance (p < 0.05) and objective grades. Stress and risk for burnout were important predictors for anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: The decrease in health and the increase in risk patterns indicate a need for prevention and health promotion that should not only focus on individual behavior but also address the contextual factor of study organization within medical school.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult