Stone, Chelsea K.
Trammell, Randall H.
Smith, Michael L.
Fulda, Kimberly


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Purpose (a): First year medical students begin their classroom studies with ideals of providing healthcare while exemplifying the healthy habits they wish to impart to their patients. The reality is that this high pressure educational environment followed by 3-8 years of post-doctoral training has great potential to lead students down the path of poor health behaviors. Ample research supports a correlation between high stress situations and declining self-care behaviors. A trending cause of concern is the recent surge in energy drink consumption. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to evaluate first year medical students’ health habits, their perception of stress and its relationship with energy drink consumption. We hypothesize that first year medical students energy drink consumption is associated with less positive health behaviors upon reassessment during medical school. Methods (b): This study involved administration of two surveys to the incoming class of UNTHSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The pre-survey, distributed during orientation week, was completed by 221 first year medical students. Subjects were recruited with a brief oral speech provided by the principal investigator informing them that their participation was voluntary. Near the conclusion of the first semester, the survey was re-administered and 123 students completed the survey. Comparative analyses included only those subjects who completed both the pre and post surveys (n=123), consisting of 58 males and 65 females ranging from ages 21-41 with a mean age of 24+3 years. Frequency analysis were run on each of the variable categories based on the ranges listed on the survey. A dependent samples T-test was used to compare the Perceived Stress Scale between pre and post surveys. Nonparametric McNemar Tests were used to compare pre and post variables of typical hours per sleep in a 24- hour day, days per week exercised and whether the subject consumed energy drinks within the past month. An alpha of less than 0.05 was considered significant. Results (c): The Perceived Stress Scale increased from a mean score of 12.9+5.8 to 18.2+6.5 (p<0.01). The pre-test report of sleep duration was 26.8% slept ≤ 6 hours and 73.2% slept 7 hours or more. The post- test indicated a significant decrease (p<0.01) in sleep with 53.7% sleeping 6 hours or less and 46.3% sleeping 7 hours or more. Similarly, with the pre-test, 36.9% reported exercising less than 2 days per week, 44.3% 3-4 times per week, 16.4% 5-6 times per week and 2.5% 7 days per week, and these rates shifted to 61.9% reported exercising less than 2 days per week, 27.4% 3-4 days per week, 8.8% 5-6 days per week and 1.8% 7 days per week. Finally, energy drink consumption increased from 29.3% at pre-test to 40.7% in the post-test analysis (p< 0.01). Conclusions (d): Subject responses regarding the changes in health behaviors during the first semester of medical school show significant differences when compared to the data gathered before the semester began. Decreased sleep and exercise, as well as an increase in perceived stress and energy drink consumption support our hypothesis that increased energy drink consumption is associated with less positive health behaviors.