The Incidence of Anxiety and Depression in Physical Therapy Students. II. Hypothesis, Research Question and Literature Review

The Incidence of Anxiety and Depression in Physical Therapy Students. II. Hypothesis, Research Question and Literature Review

In a study by Hojat, et al. (1999), 1157 medical students (743 male and 414 female) completed a set of psychosocial questionnaires measuring intensity and chronicity of loneliness, general anxiety, test anxiety, neuroticism, depression, extraversion, self-esteem, locus of control, perceptions of parents, general health, and appraisals of stressful life events.  The results of the study showed that males tested higher on the intensity of loneliness, and females tested higher on general anxiety, test anxiety, and neuroticism.  There was no significant gender differences observed with chronicity of loneliness, depression, extraversion, self-esteem, external locus of control, general health, or perceptions of parents.  The similarities in personality traits between genders could be due to the highly selective nature of students who apply to medical school; often medical schools choose students with distinct personalities who have the ability to compete in an extremely stressful environment.  In this study, stressful life events were viewed more negatively for females than for the males.  It was concluded that future research would enable healthcare providers to better recognize signs and symptoms of depression among medical students, and provide intervention when and where it is appropriate.

Medical students are not the only professional students who have been studied in reference to the incidence of anxiety and depression.  Several studies have looked at law students, stress, anxiety and depression (Buick, 2000; Dammeyer, 2000; Dammeyer & Nunez, 1999; Frank, 1979; Gutierrez,1985;  Helmers, Danoff, Steinert, Leyton, &Young, 1997;  Kellner, Wiggins & Pathak, 1986; McAleer, 1973; McIntosh, Keywell, Reifman & Ellsworth, 1994). Although certain personality characteristics may help students to adjust to the demands of law school, the environment definitely plays a role in the stress, anxiety and depression experienced by many (Gutierrez, 1985).  Law students experience unusually high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as a function of the nature of legal training (Buick, 2000). Psychological services, when provided, have been noted to have been used for mild depression or anxiety by law students (McAleer, 1973).

Buick (2000), conducted a study to determine the extent and manner that depression, anxiety, and psychiatric distress classification could be explained by certain demographics variables including: gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, year in law school, grade point average, full or part-time attendance, scholarship status, and employment status.  Findings revealed that the majority of law students were experiencing mild depression, mild anxiety and above average distress, although the rates were not considered to be at a “clinical level.”  Female law students had higher Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI ) scores than male law students overall.  Law students that were employed at the same time as they were in school had higher BDI scores than their non-working counterparts, and law students who had a low grade point average also scored higher on the BDI/BAI.  These scores were, however, still within the normal range.

Dammeyer (2000) looked at self-reported levels of anxiety and depression among first-year law students.  He hypothesized that law students would report higher levels of anxiety and depression than medical students, and that students attending law programs with high quality of life (QoL, Flanagan, 1978) ratings would report lower levels of anxiety and depression than students attending a school with low QoL ratings.  Significant (p<.001) differences were found between law and medical students, with law students reporting greater levels of distress.  No support was found for the hypothesis that law student distress is related to QoL ratings at law schools.

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About the Author

Clare LewisClare Lewis graduated from the Professional School of Psychology in 2003 with her doctorate in clinical psychology and in 2005 with her doctorate in organizational psychology. She has been licensed as a clinical psychologist since 2012.  In addition to her psychology degrees, Clare is a licensed physical therapist with an advanced masters in orthopedic manual therapy and an transitional doctorate in physical therapy.  Clare is a certified manual therapist from the Stanley Paris Institute and a fellow of the American Association of Orthopedic and Manual Physical Therapists.  Clare has been a professor in the department of physical therapy at CSU Sacramento since 1996.  She has taught the psychology class and orthopedic class for majors for many years. She practices physical therapy at Remedy Rehab in Sacramento, CA doing orthopedic out-patient manual therapy and volunteers at the suicide hotline for Sacramento County.

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