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.