Objective: We evaluated perceived stress in 1st-year chiropractic students and the relationship between perceived stress and test anxiety. Moreover, we sought student-identified stressors that complicate chiropractic education.
Methods: We tested 3 hypotheses in a longitudinal descriptive study: (1) student-perceived stress would increase over 6 months of chiropractic training, (2) depression level and grade-point average (GPA) at matriculation would predict student-perceived stress 6 months into the program, and (3) perceived stress would correlate with cognitive and emotional test anxiety levels. Assessments used were prematriculation GPA, perceived chiropractic college stress (PCCS), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the Test Anxiety Inventory.
Results: Four hundred and seven students participated during 2014 and 2015. PCCS increased 18% after 6 months (t(406) = 6.32, p < .001, d = .33). Prematriculation GPA was not a significant predictor of PCCS at 6 months, p = .082. By contrast, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale at the beginning of the chiropractic training program was a significant predictor p < .001, multiple R2 = 7.1%. PCCS correlated with test anxiety worry and emotionality (r = .37, p < .001 and r = .35, p < .001, respectively). The top 4 stressors identified by students were (by priority) finances, time for a life outside school, personal competence/endurance, and curriculum/environment.
Conclusion: Our findings are consistent with perceived stress increases during medical school. Surprisingly, prematriculation GPA, a widely used academic performance predictor, was a poor predictor of PCCS, while depression level at matriculation was a moderate predictor. PCCS correlated with test anxiety worry and emotionality, known academic performance impediments.
Author keywords: Chiropractic, Depression, Education, Stress, Test Anxiety
Author affiliations: NZ: Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, Port Orange, FL; CH: Life Chiropractic College West, Hayward, CA
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