Psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical students in the United States of America

Yuxi Zhang, Jessica Geddes, Fareesh Hobbs Kanga, Seth Himelhoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study aimed to assess the early psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on United States medical students when compared to graduate students in fields unrelated to healthcare using the perceived stress scale (PSS-10) and the perceived COVID-19-related risk scale (PCRS). This was a cross-sectional study between May and June 2020. We created an anonymous, online questionnaire that was administered to medical students nationwide and local graduate students. We used Student's t-test, Chi-square test, and regression models. We received 425 completed responses. Contrary to similar stress levels in graduate students, medical students on average experienced significantly more stress after coursework suspension than before (20.6 vs 14.7). Female gender and a mental illness diagnosis were associated with statistically significantly elevated PSS-10 scores before and after suspension in medical students. Medical students reported a low PCRS score. Most medical students were confident in their department's infection control measures and willing to report to work. Female gender and a mental illness diagnosis remain two important risk factors for medical students’ stress levels during the pandemic. This study highlights the need to foster students’ public health competency and safely involve students as non-frontline workers in public health emergency responses for their mental wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114595
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the University of Kentucky College of Medicine leadership and the University of Kentucky Graduate Student Congress leadership for support of this project. The authors wish to thank Ms.Virginia Lacefield, University of Kentucky Institutional Research, for her assistance in adapting the study questionnaire to online survey on Qualtrics.

Funding Information:
This study received funding from the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • COVID-19
  • Medical students
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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