Date Presented 04/22/2023

This poster highlights results from a cross-sectional research study that examined stress, anxiety, and depression levels; sources of stress; and coping mechanisms of graduate students in health science programs at one educational institution .

Primary Author and Speaker: Erin Muskatallo

Additional Authors and Speakers: Sara Fisher, Amber SanGiacomo, Emma Kathleen Reading

Contributing Authors: Andrea Coppola

Students enrolled within rigorous, graduate-level health science programs may be at increased likelihood for experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and/or depression. This cross-sectional, mixed methods research study examined the stress, anxiety, and depression levels of students at one educational institution within the graduate-level health science programs, through the use of an electronic survey. Researchers also identified students’ sources of stress and commonly utilized coping mechanisms. The survey consisted of researcher-developed questions and the modified DASS-21. Open-ended responses underwent thematic analysis, and researchers calculated descriptive statistics through SPSS to analyze close-ended questions. The sample consisted of 104 graduate-level students in the health science programs (OT, PT, and PA). According to the modified DASS-21 scale, a majority of students fell within the ‘normal’ category for stress (38.8%), anxiety (35%), and depression (51.9%). However, the remaining 61.2%, 65%, and 48.1% of participants reported experiencing some levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, respectively. The most common sources of stress included learning a large amount of information in a short amount of time (n=82) and the struggle to balance school and relationships (n=73). Commonly utilized coping strategies included exercise (n=53) and social-/media use (n=45). Findings demonstrate that graduate students within OT, PT, and PA programs at this educational institution experience varying levels of stress, anxiety, and depression while enrolled in didactic and/or clinical portions of their academic programming. This study supports the need for greater mental health awareness and support on college campuses. Findings suggest the value in expanding upon mental health resources available to students within these programs to promote optimal mental wellness and to facilitate student success in their endeavors of becoming healthcare professionals.


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