Research Article: A cross-sectional study of sociodemographic factors and their influence on quality of life in medical students at Sao Paulo, Brazil

Date Published: July 10, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Mario Ivo Serinolli, Marcia Cristina Zago Novaretti, Robert Stewart.


Various sociodemographic factors can affect the quality of life of medical students and interfere in their ability to study. A deeper understanding of these factors may facilitate improvements in learning and retention of medical students.

We conducted a cross-sectional study of 405 medical students, representing 65.3% of the total student body (years 1–6), at a private medical school in São Paulo, Brazil. Among the entire study group, 177 students (43.7%) were male, and 228 (56.3%) were female. The mean age was 23.55 years (SD = 3.98 years, range: 18–40). The World Health Organization Quality of Life-Biomedical Research and Education Facility (WHOQOL-BREF) scale was used to evaluate the following sociodemographic factors: age, sex, academic year, daily traveling time, housing conditions, smoking, weight, height, participant’s and his/her parents’ education background, students who had a degree or not and religious beliefs. The reliability of the WHOQOL-BREF was evaluated using Cronbach’s analysis, and the association of sociodemographic factors with quality of life was examined using multivariate regression analysis.

Quality of life was significantly higher in medical students with religious beliefs (β 0.14 for psychological domain; β 0.11 for environmental domain) when compared with that in those with no religious beliefs. BMI was negative associated with QOL in medical students (β -0.11 for physical domain; β -18.9 for the psychological domain). In both male and female students, longer daily traveling time was negative related to QOL (β -0.11 for environmental domain). Having at least one parent who was a doctor was associated with a better quality of life (β 0.17 for environmental domain). Male students presented with significantly higher mean scores for three of the four domains evaluated (β 0.20 for physical domain; β 0.25 for psychological domain; β 0.14 for social domain).

This study has provided novel insights into the effects of sociodemographic factors, physical traits, and religious beliefs on the quality of life of medical students. These findings may facilitate improvements in physical, psychological, and social support for medical students at a critical stage in their training, thereby providing tools for student better adjustment to medical school.

Partial Text

In the 21st century, advances in medicine and in health technology have provided increased access to medical research databases, social networks, and apps, making it more difficult to be a medical student and ultimately a physician [1]. Medical students experience greater stress compared with university students in other fields due to the long hours of training, stringent academic demands, frequent examinations, and constant exposure to new and often stressful clinical experiences, all of which may lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout [2, 3]. Moreover, the competitive environment persists after medical school and remains a substantial component of a physician’s life. Medical doctors are expected to deliver high-quality health care, possess strong communication skills, collaborate with other physicians, be accountable to the wider medical team, and adopt a patient-centered approach [4]. They function as educators, leaders, team members, managers, and policymakers. To prepare medical students for these challenges, Cruess et al. [1] emphasized the need to reframe medical education and to transition from teaching the concept of professionalism to a concept of aligning medical professionalism with the student’s personal identity [4].

This study was conducted to identify sociodemographic factors that potentially influence the QOL of medical students attending a private medical school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Consistent with our initial hypothesis, we found that a normal BMI and religious beliefs were associated with greater QOL in medical students. In addition, we observed lower scores in the physical, social, and psychological domains of the QOL questionnaire in female students compared with male students.




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