Introduction: The undergraduate medical course is known to be a stressful course within the University structure but there are no national studies available to review this.
Objective: To compare the levels psychological stress between medical and non-medical students and to distinguish stress levels over the five years of undergraduate study of the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery Honours degree at the University of Malta.
Method: Two separate depression and stress related questionnaires were distributed to a medical and non-medical student population. The results obtained of the two questionnaires where compared and analysed using SPSS version 16.
Result: A total number of 561 students completed the questionnaires including 208 medical and 253 non-medical students. The medical students scored an average of 32.71 (Q-1) and 16.30 (Q-2) whereas the non-medical students scored lower with a 29.17 (Q-1) and 14.70 (Q-2). This indicated a statistically significant difference in scores between medical and non-medical students (p<0.05). Female students were also noted to be statistically more stressed than male students (p<0.05). When comparing the different grades of student the third year students were noted to be the least stressed cohort (p<0.05) whereas the 2nd (Q-2) and 5th (Q-1 & Q-2) year students were the most stressed groups (p<0.05). There was no significant difference between the 2nd and 5th year students with regards to their scores of Q-2 but there was a difference noted when comparing the Q-1 scores.
Conclusion: The results confirm the need for a framework to support medical students during their course, especially during the two more demanding years (2nd and 5th year). Further scope for investigation may be the manner with which males cope as the stress levels appear to be generally lower and also to compare with future groups of students following a move from one venue to a newer medical school.