Thumbnail Image

Impact of the first year of medical school on anthropometric measurements

Ricken, Rileigh
Madrak, Emily
Volberding, Jennifer L.
Background: First-year medical students are placed under a great amount of stress upon starting their medical education. Chronic stress has negative impacts on the mental and physical condition of individuals. Persistent stress can lead to lead increases in various physiological measurements including blood pressure, BMI, resting heart rate, respiration rate, and pulse oximetry. In addition, medical students also have stressors outside the walls of medical school that cause increases in these measurements. The purpose of this study was to track first-year medical students' BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and pulse oximetry over the first semester of medical school.
Methods: Medical students were solicited to participate. At the beginning of the semester data collection, participants were asked to complete an online survey for demographic information, and then their blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, respiratory rate, height in cm, and weight in kg were collected. At the end of the semester, participants returned to have their anthropometric measurements retaken. BMI was calculated using height and weight. Data were uploaded into SPSS for analysis. Means, standard deviations, and frequencies were calculated for variables. Paired samples t-tests were conducted to determine differences over the course of the semester. T-tests were also used to determine differences in variables at each individual data collection point for parametric data and Mann-Whitney analyses were run on non-parametric data.
Results: A convenience sample of 28 medical students (male = 16, female = 12, age = 24.86 + 4.16) participated in the study. The paired samples t-test demonstrated statistical significance for BMI (t=- 2.362, p<0.05) and weight (t=-2.364, p<0.05) with students demonstrating an increase in both. T-tests analyzing differences in variables at the initial data collection demonstrated differences in sex assigned at birth and systolic blood pressure (t=2.39, P=0.02), gender identity and systolic blood pressure (t=2.39, p=0.02), and children in the house and BMI (t= -2.10, p<0.05). This demonstrated that males (both sex assigned at birth and gender identity) had higher levels of systolic blood pressure while those individuals who had children living in the home had a higher BMI. Additionally, within the first data collection, a statistical difference was determined by a Mann Whitney between Being Affiliated with a Native Tribe and diastolic blood pressure (Z= -2.26, p=0.02), with non-natives having higher diastolic blood pressure. T-tests for the second data collection demonstrated differences between children in the house and BMI (t=-2.12, P=0.04) and children in the house systolic blood pressure (t= -2.41, p=0.02), demonstrating those with children had higher values.
Conclusions: Attending medical school, although a privilege, ultimately can have negative impacts on students. This study was able to show that the overall rigor and lifestyle of a medical student along with outside factors can negatively impact one's health in terms of weight, BMI, and blood pressure. With that, schools should be encouraged to offer health and wellness programs that students can utilize to improve their overall health. These resources can include but are not limited to, on sight gym, fitness classes, counseling, nutrition classes, mental health resources, and support for habits outside of medical school. You need a statement here on what medical schools can do to mitigate the impact of stress on these measures.