The Factors Causing Stress in Medical Students and their Impact on Academic Outcomes: A Narrative Qualitative Systematic Review




Psychological Stressors, Medical Students, Medical School, Analysis , Stress, Academic Outcomes , Systematic Review, Qualitative Analysis , PRISMA Guidelines, Academic Pressure , Institutional Impact, Personality Traits , Social Relationships, Financial Stress , Narrative Review, Emotional Exhaustion , Burnout, Academic Performance , Mental Well-being, Resilience , Depression


Background: This study investigated the causes of stress in medical students and the impact of stress on their academic outcomes. Much is known about the impact of stress on medical students but there is a gap in knowledge regarding the collated overview of literature in this area. This study sought to pull together disparate research to gain a clearer overview of the core drivers of stress.

Methods: Taking a meta-level approach, a narrative qualitative systematic review of previous systematic reviews was undertaken, following the PRISMA guidelines. This systematic review covered literature published from 2009-2023 where the focus was stress in students studying at medical schools in the United Kingdom. Findings were then assessed for commonly emerging themes.

Results: From an initial tranche of 3394 articles, a final set of eight systematic reviews was identified. The eight reviews drew on over 309 separate research projects and involved over 500,000 participants. A review of the key findings from each of the eight studies identified five themes: academic pressure, the impact of the institution, students’ personality traits, social relationships, and financial stress. The analysis provided clear evidence that stress amongst medical students results in negative academic outcomes.

Conclusion: The findings suggest a need to reduce stress to help medical students prevent a decline in their academic outcomes and health. From these findings it is recommended that medical schools examine their curriculum to identify areas where they feel they put undue academic pressure on their students and work on ways to remediate this situation.


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The image depicts a stressed medical student surrounded by books and study materials, with swirling lines and exclamation marks symbolizing stress. The background includes elements like a clock and medical symbols to emphasize the academic and medical context


2024-06-11 — Updated on 2024-07-09

How to Cite

Jeyapalan, T., & Blair, E. (2024). The Factors Causing Stress in Medical Students and their Impact on Academic Outcomes: A Narrative Qualitative Systematic Review. International Journal of Medical Students, 12(2), 195–203.