Exploring the Association between Years of Post-Secondary Education on Medical Students' Self-Perceived Stress


Christina M. Huang*, Vincent Wu and Jennifer J. MacKenzie

Background: The pressures of medical education have the potential to negatively affect students’ academic performance and mental health. We aimed to explore the relationship between years of post-secondary education (PSE) completed prior to medical school and students’ self-perceived stress.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study, utilizing an online survey including the Perceived Stress Scale 10 (PSS-10), to determine the self-perceived stress levels of pre-clerkship medical students. Surveys were completed on a voluntary basis. Age, gender, PSE years, current medical school year, alumni status, additional pursuits prior to medical school, and PSS-10 score were captured. Multiple one-way analyses of variance within pairwise comparisons was used to analyze the relationship between PSS-10 with PSE, controlled for all other variables. Student’s t-test compared gender, medical school year, alumni status, and additional pursuits before medical school with PSS-10. Analysis of age and PSS-10 was performed using regression analysis.

Results: Of the 109 respondents, 50.5% (55/109) were female. The average age of first and second year students were 23.1 ± 2.43 and 24.5 ± 2.71 years, respectively. Controlled for all other variables, PSE contributed significantly to students’ perceived stress (p4 years were found (p>0.05). Higher level of medical training, increased age, and additional pre-medical school experiences were associated with reduced stress scores on the PSS-10 (p<0.05).

Conclusion: PSE years may be a significant factor related to medical student stress levels in pre-clerkship. Additional years of medical school and activities prior to medical school may be protective in decreasing perceived stress.