Dutch or international: all students are stressed

Everyone knows that students are stressed. But are internationals really worse off than their Dutch colleagues? A study at medical sciences says otherwise.
By Christien Boomsma

Researchers of health psychology at the UMCG studied several cohorts of medical students to see how students ‘juggle’ their time and study activities. Over two hundred students participated in the ‘Juggle Study’ that began in 2015 and 150 students participated in the study that began in 2016. 49 and 35 students, respectively, were international. The results from both years have now been evaluated.

The result? International medical students are not more stressed than the Dutch medical students. When the numbers show any difference, it appears that internationals may even feel less pressure than their Dutch classmates.

Unexpected result

‘This is an unexpected result’, says researcher Moniek Janse of the UMCG. ‘So I looked carefully through the data again. But they are really accurate.’

At this point, the juggle study only provides data for the first couple years of a student’s career. The data shows that fifteen percent of medical students – Dutch and internationals – feel a constant level of high stress. Is that a high percentage? ‘When so many students experience continuous pressure, there’s definitely something wrong, I think.’

However, she also found that for some students the distress levels go down after the first months. ‘Some of them seem capable of dealing with the situation themselves’, Janse says, hopefully.

Extremely focused

Janse also found that students are extremely focused on their studies and achievements these days. ‘We asked them about their goals without specifying what these should be. Apart from acadamic goals, there could be family goals, health goals or leisure time goals.’

Students are focused primarily on academic achievements, she notices. ‘That effect only gets stronger over time.’  But there’s more to being a good doctor, Janse says.

Janse and her colleagues started the study because they wanted more insight in the mental states of medical students. How do they deal with stress? With burn-out? Who is at risk of dropping out? ‘If we know that, we also know what to watch out for and are able to help when needed.’

Selection process

Janse will keep track of the students until their sixth, and last, year. She hopes other faculties will do related studies. ‘Medical students are extremely driven and often even more motivated than regular students, because of the selection process. It is possible that their distress levels are a little higher because of this. More research is needed.



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