Predictors of stress, anxiety, depression, study engagement and academic performance in physiotherapy students, including a subgroup receiving a mindfulness training program
Keywords:student, mindfulness, psychological distress, academic performance
Introduction: Student wellbeing is a growing concern for physiotherapy and other health professional students, with potential impacts on academic success, patient care and future personal wellbeing. The purpose of this study was to determine the predictors of future stress, anxiety, depression, study engagement and academic performance in physiotherapy students, including a subgroup who undertook a mindfulness training program.
Methods: Predictors of outcome were obtained from a prospective cohort study involving 83 penultimate-year physiotherapy students, who could volunteer to participate in a 6-week mindfulness training program during semester (n = 17) or complete outcome measures without mindfulness training (n = 66). Baseline predictors of outcome were obtained at the start of Semester 1: age, gender, trait mindfulness, study engagement, training (mindfulness training or no training), stress, anxiety and depression. Outcomes were measured at the end of Semester 1 (study engagement, stress, anxiety, depression, grade point average) and at the end of the course (grade point average). Multiple regression was used to determine the ability of baseline characteristics to predict outcomes.
Results: Psychological distress (stress, anxiety and depression) increased across the full study cohort between the start and end of the semester as exams approached (p < .05). Completion of mindfulness training was significantly associated with better academic performance and lower levels of depression at follow-up. Female gender, lower baseline depression scores and higher study engagement were also significant predictors of superior academic performance, while older age and higher trait mindfulness predicted greater study engagement at end of semester (p < .05).
Conclusions: Potentially modifiable factors (study engagement, depression and mindfulness training) were associated with future wellbeing and academic success in physiotherapy students. Further research is warranted to explore interventions to address these outcomes in randomised controlled trials.
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