Anxiety, Depression and Academic Performance: A Study Amongst Portuguese Medical Students Versus Non-Medical Students

João Moreira de Sousa, Cátia A. Moreira, Diogo Telles-Correia


Introduction: The aim of the study is to assess the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms in Portuguese medical students compared to students of other faculties, and the possible impact those symptoms have on academic performance.
Material and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a sample of 750 students: 512 medical students and 238 nonmedical students. All students anonymously completed a socio-demographic survey and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Statistical analysis was performed using the chi-square test, Mann-Whitney test, Spearman correlation coefficient or Kruskal-Wallis test.
Results: We found a prevalence of 21.5% (n = 161) for anxiety symptoms and 3.7% (n = 28) for depressive symptoms. Being a medical student was more significantly associated with symptoms of anxiety (p = 0.034) compared with other students. Depressive symptoms were slightly associated with poor academic performance (p < 0.01). A percentage of 59.6% (n = 96) of students with anxiety symptoms and 46.4% (n = 13) of students with depressive symptoms did not seek medical or psychological care at that time.
Discussion: Medical students in this sample seem to have more symptoms of anxiety, possibly explained by a higher number of female students in that sample. Depressive symptoms could be associated with poor academic performance in both groups, but an evident correlation was not established.
Conclusion: Considering the high levels of anxiety symptoms, the possible impact of depressive symptoms in academic performance and the lack of psychiatric or psychological follow-up reported in this study, it is urgent to develop adequate means of support to improve students’ well-being and mental health.


Academic Performance; Anxiety; Depression; Stress, Psychological; Students, Medical

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