Mindfulness reduces stress levels and psychopathological symptomatology in medical students

According to research by the Biological Foundations of Mental Disorders group and the Transversal Research Group on Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medicine

Mindfulness exercises reduce stress levels and psychopathological symptomatology in medical students, who have a high prevalence of these disorders during their university studies, training as residents and, subsequently, in their professional practice as doctors. This is according to research carried out by the University of Lleida (UdL) and researchers from the Biological foundations of mental disorders and the Urgency and Emergency Multi-disciplinary Research Group. The research has been published in the international journal Mindfulness. A researcher from the UNED also worked on the study.

The study involved 143 students from the UdL, 68 in the intervention group and 75 in the control group, with a median age of 20.28 years. Of the participants, 73.4% were women. The mindfulness programme was carried out over 16 weeks, with eight 2-hour mindfulness sessions led by psychologist Pere Oró. "It is a practice that combines structured, formal and informal interventions, based on paying attention in a particular way: focused on the present moment, on purpose, and without establishing value judgements," explains Oró.

The team conducted evaluations of the participants before and after the intervention. They have found that the mindfulness-based programme produces a clear improvement in psychopathological and stress symptoms. Specifically, the results show a reduction in stress from 24.07 to 20.1 on the PSS scale. On the other hand, no effect was observed on the feeling of professional burnout.

"Medical students have high symptoms of stress, anxiety and burnout due to the high academic requirements, work overload and the responsibility of the profession itself," explains Montserrat Esquerda, lecturer at the UdL and researcher in the Biological foundations of mental disorders group. For this reason, "this study can contribute to the design of a training programme to promote effective self-care strategies for both students and the medical profession," she adds.

The authors of the research propose offering this type of intervention as a complementary activity or even as part of the main training curriculum. They also believe that future research should look more deeply into the concept of burnout and the factors that may contribute to its occurrence.

Text: Press UdL and IRBLleida

The group Biological foundations of mental disorders