BACKGROUND: In recent years there has been a growing appreciation of the issues of quality of life and stresses involved medical training as this may affect their learning and academic performance. However, such studies are lacking in medical schools of Nepal. Therefore, we carried out this study to assess the prevalence of psychological morbidity, sources and severity of stress and coping strategies among medical students in our integrated problem-stimulated undergraduate medical curriculum. METHODS: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey was carried out among the undergraduate medical students of Manipal College of Medical Sciences, Pokhara, Nepal during the time period August, 2005 to December, 2006. The psychological morbidity was assessed using General Health Questionnaire. A 24-item questionnaire was used to assess sources of stress and their severity. Coping strategies adopted was assessed using brief COPE inventory. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 75.8% (407 out of 525 students). The overall prevalence of psychological morbidity was 20.9% and was higher among students of basic sciences, Indian nationality and whose parents were medical doctors. By logistic regression analysis, GHQ-caseness was associated with occurrence of academic and health-related stressors. The most common sources of stress were related to academic and psychosocial concerns. The most important and severe sources of stress were staying in hostel, high parental expectations, vastness of syllabus, tests/exams, lack of time and facilities for entertainment. The students generally used active coping strategies and alcohol/drug was a least used coping strategy. The coping strategies commonly used by students in our institution were positive reframing, planning, acceptance, active coping, self-distraction and emotional support. The coping strategies showed variation by GHQ-caseness, year of study, gender and parents' occupation. CONCLUSION: The higher level of psychological morbidity warrants need for interventions like social and psychological support to improve the quality of life for these medical students. Student advisors and counselors may train students about stress management. There is also need to bring about academic changes in quality of teaching and evaluation system. A prospective study is necessary to study the association of psychological morbidity with demographic variables, sources of stress and coping strategies.
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