Background: Distress and burnout among medical and psychology professionals are commonly reported and have implications for the quality of patient care delivered. Already in the course of university studies, medicine and psychology students report mental distress and low life satisfaction. There is a need for interventions that promote better coping skills in students in order to prevent distress and future burnout. This study examines the effect of a seven-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme on mental distress, study stress, burnout, subjective well-being, and mindfulness of medical and psychology students.
Methods: A total of 288 students (mean age = 23 years, 76% female) from the University of Oslo and the University of Tromsø were randomly allocated to an intervention or control group. The control group continued with their standard university courses and received no intervention. Participants were evaluated using self-reported measures both before and after the intervention. These were: the 'General Health Questionnaire, Maslach Burnout Inventory Student version, Perceived Medical School Stress, Subjective Well-being, and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire' and additional indices of compliance.
Results: Following the intervention, a moderate effect on mental distress (Hedges'g 0.65, CI = .41, .88), and a small effect on both subjective well-being (Hedges'g 0.40, CI = .27, .63) and the mindfulness facet 'non-reacting' (Hedges'g 0.33, CI = .10, .56) were found in the intervention group compared with the control group. A higher level of programme attendance and reported mindfulness exercises predicted these changes. Significant effects were only found for female students who additionally reported reduced study stress and an increase in the mindfulness facet 'non-judging'. Gender specific effects of participation in the MBSR programme have not previously been reported, and gender differences in the present study are discussed.
Conclusion: Female medical and psychology students experienced significant positive improvements in mental distress, study stress, subjective well-being and mindfulness after participating in the MBSR programme.
Trial registration: NCT00892138.