OBJECTIVE: The study objectives were to identify the stress levels and to explore the impact of students' year of study and gender on the perceived sources of stress among Malaysian dental students.
METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study involving dental students from year one to year five from private and public universities in Malaysia. The study was formally approved by the Research and Ethics Committee, International Medical University Malaysia. Dental Environment Stress (DES) questionnaire was used for data collection and the gathered data were analyzed using SPSS® version 18. The Kruskal-Wallis and the Mann-Whitney U tests were used to compare stress items across various academic years and universities.
RESULTS: A total of five hundred and twenty nine (529) students participated in this study. Fear of failing the course at the end of year exams (mean stress level=5.57); concerns regarding completion of clinical work (mean=5.30); and examination results and grades (mean=5.27) were found as top stressors among dental students. Female students had higher stress scores than males with respect to personal issues, academic performance, educational environment and learning of clinical skills. Students from public universities had higher stress scores than their counterparts from private universities.
CONCLUSIONS: The Malaysian dental students reported higher levels of stress. Present study identified stressors affecting dental students' academic life, and highlights the importance of stress management programs and other measures to minimize the impact of stress on both academic and personal lives of the students.