How does the self-reported health of undergraduate nursing students change during their degree programme? Survey results from a Scottish University

Josie M. M. Evans*, Federico Andreis, Dawn M. Cameron, Claire E. Eades

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background The lifestyle behaviours, and the physical and mental health of nurses, are poorer than those of other allied health professionals, and of the general population. However, these were no less favourable among first year undergraduate nursing students at a Scottish Higher Education Institution (HEI) than among similar people of the same age. We compared health and health behaviours among the same cohort of undergraduate nursing students over the course of their degree.

Methods An anonymous self-complete repeat cross-sectional survey was administered during a timetabled teaching session at three time-points to undergraduate nursing students at the start of Years 1, 2 and 3 of their programme. They had received written information about the study previously.

Results Self-reported health did not change significantly over time, but there was a clear decline over the 3 years in the proportions of students rating their mental health as excellent/very good/good and a concomitant increase in those rating their mental health as fair/poor. Correspondingly, the mean WEMWBS wellbeing score declined over the 3 years, with the proportion of students with a score of < 46 (indicating either high risk of major depression, or in high risk of psychological distress and increased risk of depression) increasing from one quarter to one half. This effect was captured and described using a Bayesian regression analysis. The most noticeable change in health behaviours was a decline in physical activity levels over the study period. The proportion of students managing 150 min of weekly physical activity decreased from three quarters to two thirds. This was reflected in higher self-reported sedentary time, although there were no observable trends over time in mean BMI, or proportions of students categorised as overweight or obese.

Conclusions This paper suggests that there may be a decline in mental health and in participation in physical activity among nursing students over the course of their degree. We recommend the incorporation of an intervention into the undergraduate nursing curriculum that promotes and encourages regular physical activity, offering students the opportunity to learn about health promotion and lifestyle change in practice, to improve their own physical health, and to address mental wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number44
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Nursing
Volume20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

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