An Assessment of Stress-induced Life Change in Students of Health Sciences: The Path toward a Coping Strategy

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of Health Services Management, School of Allied Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences


Background and Objectives: Stress among students of the health sciences can lead to reduced performance of future healthcare human resources. To address this threat there is a need to develop a robust understanding of the nature and intensity of stress in these professionals. To help approaching this goal, the present study assessed stress-induced life change in students of Tehran University of Medical Sciences by quantifying their stressful life events.
Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive-analytical study was carried out. Using a cluster sampling method, 248 students were randomly selected from the students of medicine, nursing, dental medicine, pharmacy, allied-medicine, health, midwifery, medical management and information, and rehabilitation disciplines. Based on the concept of Life Change Units (LCU), a questionnaire was developed to quantify the stressful events in student life. The questionnaire contained 54 weighed items about stressful life events related to four groups of interpersonal (10 items), personal (16 items), academic (14 items), and environmental (14 items) stress sources. Validity of the questionnaire was determined by expert opinion. The questionnaire reliability was ensured by Cronbach’s alpha of 0.88. The mean LCU loading of demographic groups was compared using t test and ANOVA.
Findings: The average LCU loading in student was 71. Twenty seven percent of the students reported an average LCU loading < 50, 46%, LCU loading between 150-300, and 27%, LCU loading > 300. The highest reported life changes were related to personal factors (86), followed by interpersonal (79), environmental (63), and academic (55) factors. Male students showed significantly higher life change as compared with their female counterparts (P < 0.01). Students of medical and graduate courses jointly expressed significantly higher life change as compared with the under graduate students (P < 0.01). Students of nursing showed significantly higher life change in comparison to other students except medical students (P < 0.01). Upper-year students reported higher life change as compared with freshman students (P < 0.01). LCU loading was found significantly higher in students with sleeplessness (P < 0.05) and muscle spasm (P < 0.05), whereas no significant effect was observed for other clinical symptoms.
Conclusions: Our study indicated that a considerable percentage of students are exposed to a high risk of health problems. This observation points out the urgent need for implementing effective stress management strategies to assist students in coping with stress. Such a strategy should primarily focus on enhancing students’ personal life management and communication. Male and upper-year students need to receive particular attention. Stress in students of medical and nursing disciplines needs to be specifically characterized and addressed.