Coping Styles and Sources of Stress of Undergraduate Health Science Students: An Integrative Review

Odell Chetty, Robyn Marcella Henderson, Nqobile Ayanda Mhlophe, Zama Penelope Mzobe, Lerato Xaba, Ntandoyenkosi Zulu, Thavanesi Gurayah


Background and aim: Tertiary education provides many personal and social benefits. However, students, particularly those from professional and health science disciplines are known to face significantly greater stress throughout their undergraduate degrees. In this integrative review sources of stress for students and the strategies they use to cope with the stress are explored.

Method: Various databases were searched using common key phrases such as “stressors among undergraduate health science students” and “coping mechanisms utilised by undergraduate health science students”. Thirty-three articles were selected based on predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. The content in the articles were analysed to identify themes.

Results: Academic stress was the primary source of stress for health science students. Other sources of stress included interpersonal interactions and clinical training. Students primarily used problem-focused strategies to cope with stress. Other strategies included avoidance and the use of social support networks.

Conclusion: Health science students experience stress from academic tasks, interpersonal stress and stresses emanating from clinical training. They utilize problem-focused coping strategies, as well as avoidance and seeking social support when faced with stressful situations. Students would benefit from regular screening for stress-related conditions, and interventions to teach them more adaptive ways to deal with stress.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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