The Incidence of Anxiety and Depression in Physical Therapy Students. I. Setting the Stage
Professional programs are often perceived as highly stressful to the majority of the students enrolled in them. For many of these students, graduate school marks the beginning of a period of major, unavoidable life changes (Goplerud, 1980). Holmes and Masuda (1974) reported that over half of the first and second year graduate students tested on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS; Holmes & Masuda, 1974) reported life changes that placed them in the life crisis category. This is due in part to the fact that these programs require maintaining a large course load, which in turn means more hours outside of class for study and preparation. In addition, most professional programs require a minimum of a “B” (3.0) grade point average (GPA).
Although the students enrolled in the professional programs had to have superior GPAs to get accepted into their respective programs, the weight of the course load makes a high GPA still more difficult. Financial stress is another burden for many students. Many students pay for school by taking out student loans. Before a student even gains admission into a professional program, he has have already had at least a bachelors’ degree for which he may owe student loans. A student who is facing the possibility that he may not pass and have to drop out of school in light of all the money he owes can be extremely stressed. On the other hand, even if a student is able to finish his program, finding that he is unable to find work also escalates financial worries and stress. Additional stresses may include changes in living arrangements, in work, in school and in social relationships. All these stresses may ultimately lead to anxiety and depression, especially in those students who are vulnerable to mood disorders.