Resilience and coping strategies of undergraduate medical students at the University of the Free State

South African Journal of Psychiatry / July 2020

black male studying

Medical studies place students at risk for burnout. Resilience enables students to cope with adversity. Students’ coping skills will ensure the well-being of future healthcare professisonals. This cross-sectional study investigated resilience and coping among undergraduate medical students at the University of the Free State medical school. Quantitative data regarding resilience (Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale), coping strategies (Brief COPE questionnaire) and relevant information were collected by means of an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. Five hundred students (pre-clinical n = 270; clinical n = 230; approximately 62% female) participated. Most students self-reported high resilience (84.6% pre-clinical; 91.8% clinical). Mean resilience scores were 72.5 (pre-clinical) and 75.4 (clinical). Clinical students had higher resilience scores, while black, pre-clinical, first-generation and female students scored lower. Academic stress was most prominent (> 85%) and associated with lower resilience scores. Most students used adaptive coping strategies (e.g. instrumental or emotional support) associated with significantly increased resilience scores. Students who used dysfunctional strategies (e.g. substance abuse) had significantly lower resilience scores. Associations between resilience scores and year of study, gender, ethnicity, levels and type of stress varied. Academic pressure was a major source of stress. Adaptive coping strategies were associated with higher resilience scores.