Graduate-entry medical students: older and wiser but not less distressed

Australas Psychiatry. 2016 Feb;24(1):88-92. doi: 10.1177/1039856215612991. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Objectives: Australia has a growing number of graduate-entry medical courses. It is known that undergraduate medical students have high levels of psychological distress; however, little is known about graduate-entry medical students. We examined whether graduate-entry medical students had higher levels of psychological distress than the same-age general population.

Method: Psychological distress was assessed in 122 graduate-entry medical students in an Australian graduate-entry medical school using the 21-item Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale. Mean scores and the proportion of students with scores in the highly distressed range were compared with non-clinical population norms. Scores were also compared across demographic characteristics.

Results: Medical students reported higher mean depression, anxiety and stress scores than the general population and were more likely to score in the moderate to extremely high range for anxiety (45% vs. 13%; p<0.001) and stress (17% vs. 13%; p=0.003). Anxiety and stress were higher in students aged ≥30 years than in younger students.

Conclusions: Despite their maturity, graduate-entry students experienced high psychological distress. Anxiety and stress were higher, not lower, with increasing age. Our results suggest that graduate-entry medical students warrant the same level of concern as their school-leaving counterparts. Further interventions to support these students during medical school are warranted.

Keywords: Australia; DASS-21; graduate-entry; medical students; psychological distress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult