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UK medical students' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study

Rich, A., Viney, R., Silkens, M. E. W. M. ORCID: 0000-0001-8279-1341 , Griffin, A. & Medisauskaite, A. (2023). UK medical students' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open, 13(4), article number e070528. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-070528


OBJECTIVES: To understand the impact of COVID-19 on medical students with mental health problems.

DESIGN: Qualitative study employing in-depth semistructured interviews with medical students which were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: A purposive sample of 20 students originating from 8 geographically spread UK medical schools were selected, representing various mental health issues and demographic characteristics.

RESULTS: Three themes were identified: (1) medical schools' response to the pandemic-schools increased awareness-raising of mental health support and increased flexibility in regards to academic requirements; (2) disruption to the medical degree-COVID-19 brought change and uncertainty to medical education and missed learning opportunities reduced students' confidence and (3) psychological consequences of the pandemic-COVID-19 had a negative impact on mental health, most notably raising stress and anxiety but also triggering new or existing conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: While there were many negative aspects of the pandemic for medical students experiencing mental ill health, there were also positives. Students felt that the increased focus on mental health support during the pandemic had reduced stigma towards mental health. Given stigma has been identified as a key barrier for help-seeking in medical students, future research should investigate the longer-term impacts of the pandemic and whether medical students are more likely to seek help for mental health difficulties postpandemic.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © Author(s) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QR Microbiology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
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