Medical School Pressures and Their Relationship to Anxiety

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This study examined the relative importance of medical school pressures according to their relationship with symptoms of anxiety, as evaluated by a standardized/normative measure of anxiety. As many as 206 (34 per cent) of the total sample (N = 605) of students reported symptoms of anxiety above the median of a normative population of psychiatric outpatients. Using multiple regression, six medical school experiences significantly accounted for 36 per cent of the variance in anxiety scores. These included: perceived threat, mastering knowledge, anonymity, little time for personal activities, peer competition, and long hours. These results are important for two reasons. Contrary to the traditional belief that stressful experiences are necessary for future medical practice, research suggests that stress and anxiety are major causes of cognitive dysfunction. The identification of those experiences that are most anxiety provoking should help therapists and educators to develop intervention strategies in order to reduce anxiety and increase the quality of medical education.

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