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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring mental health, stressors and coping behaviors among dental students during the COVID-19 pandemic Ramachandran, Swathi


Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress on undergraduate dental students. While some stress may be protective by preparing students to manage certain challenges, overwhelming stressors can be detrimental to their mental health; coping mechanisms might be employed to deal with stressors. The present study undertook a scoping review to identify and discuss the COVID-19 pandemic-related stressors impacting dental students’ mental health across the world and a cross-sectional study exploring the coping mechanisms employed by dental students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) during the pandemic, to deal with their major stressors. Methods: The Joanna Briggs Institute’s framework for scoping reviews was used to identify systematically peer-reviewed publications reporting mental health issues in dental students from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic until June 22, 2021. Based on findings from the scoping review, a cross-sectional study was developed and conducted at UBC. An anonymous survey with 35 questions was distributed among all 229 UBC undergraduate dental program. The survey asked for de-identified sociodemographic data and for stressors and coping strategies via the Brief-COPE inventory. Results: Fifty-five publications were included in the scoping review; dental students suffer from stress, anxiety and depression during COVID-19. Fear of contraction during patient interaction was reported to be the predominant stressor of dental students, followed by academic stressors such as transition to virtual learning and clinical skill deficits. From the 229 eligible students, 182 (79.5%) responded to the survey and 99 (54.4%) were stressed about clinical skill deficits due to the pandemic; fear of contraction was reported by 31 students (17%). Adaptive coping was significantly higher in first, second, and fourth-year students compared with third year students (p=0.001). Social isolation was a significant predictor for maladaptive coping (p<0.001). Conclusions: Undergraduate dental students suffer from mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The main cause of stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic for dental students at UBC was their clinical skills being affected. Coping strategies that students frequently use were identified. Continued mitigation efforts should be made to address students’ mental health concerns and create a supportive learning environment.

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