JOURNAL ARTICLE

A study of depression and anxiety, general health, and academic performance in three cohorts of veterinary medical students across the first three semesters of veterinary school

Allison M J Reisbig, Jared A Danielson, Tsui-Feng Wu, McArthur Hafen, Ashley Krienert, Destiny Girard, Jessica Garlock
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2012, 39 (4): 341-58
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This study builds on previous research on predictors of depression and anxiety in veterinary medical students and reports data on three veterinary cohorts from two universities through their first three semesters of study. Across all three semesters, 49%, 65%, and 69% of the participants reported depression levels at or above the clinical cut-off, suggesting a remarkably high percentage of students experiencing significant levels of depression symptoms. Further, this study investigated the relationship between common stressors experienced by veterinary students and mental health, general health, and academic performance. A factor analysis revealed four factors among stressors common to veterinary students: academic stress, transitional stress, family-health stress, and relationship stress. The results indicated that both academic stress and transitional stress had a robust impact on veterinary medical students' well-being during their first three semesters of study. As well, academic stress negatively impacted students in the areas of depression and anxiety symptoms, life satisfaction, general health, perception of academic performance, and grade point average (GPA). Transitional stress predicted increased depression and anxiety symptoms and decreased life satisfaction. This study helped to further illuminate the magnitude of the problem of depression and anxiety symptoms in veterinary medical students and identified factors most predictive of poor outcomes in the areas of mental health, general health, and academic performance. The discussion provides recommendations for considering structural changes to veterinary educational curricula to reduce the magnitude of academic stressors. Concurrently, recommendations are suggested for mental health interventions to help increase students' resistance to environmental stressors.

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