The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of depression and stress among first-year physical therapy students and identify correlations with demographic characteristics of the participants. The hypothesis for this study is that the prevalence of depression and stress will be high among first-year physical therapy students and that there will be direct relationships between depression, stress and working a job, as well as an inverse relationship with exercise, spiritual activity, and marital status. Despite current studies regarding the prevalence of depression and stress in graduate medical and dental students, we were unable to find any research involving physical therapy graduate students and hoped to establish baseline data.


Hard copies of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), and a general demographics questionnaire were mailed to five accredited universities in Pennsylvania with a return rate of 137/214. Data was analyzed using Minitab 16. An ANOVA with an alpha level of 0.05, a two-tailed t- test and a Pearson correlations coefficient were generated using demographic information.


According to the BDI-II grading scale, 74.5% of the students scored minimal depression, 12.4% mild depression, 8.8% moderate depression, and 2.2% severe depression. Females exhibited slightly higher, but not statistically significant, scores on the BDI-II and PSS than males. The BDI-II total scores ranged from 0 to 51 with a mean (SD) score of 9.85 (8.21). The PSS-14 total scores ranged from 3 to 51 with an average of 25.28 (8.78).Based on the results of the Pearson Correlation, it was evident that the strongest correlation existed when both the BDI-II and the PSS-14 were given together. The correlation was statistically significant when the questionnaires were used concurrently and compared to employment status and participation in aerobic exercise. Participation in religious and spiritual activities and the effect of marital status did not show statistical significance.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

The prevalence of depression and stress among first-year physical therapy students was significantly higher than those of the age-equivalent general population and closely mirrored the findings noted in Ahmed et al’s study with medical students. In comparison to normative data reported by Cohen for the 18-29 year old age group, this study reports a higher perceived stress level among first year physical therapy graduate students than that population. Statistically significant correlations were found with employment and exercise when using the BDI-II and the PSS together. As a result of this data, providing education related to the risks of employment during graduate school as well as the benefits seen with the use of coping mechanisms such as regular exercise, may provide a healthier experience for physical therapy graduate students.


Ahmed I, Banu H, Al-Fageer R, Al-Suwaidi R. Cognitive emotions: depression and anxiety in medical students and staff. JCC. 2009; 24:e1-e18.
Kim KB, Cohen SM, Oh HK, Sok SR. The effects of meridian exercise on anxiety, depression, and self-esteem of female college students in Korea. Holist Nurs Pract. 2004:230-34
Cohen S, Williamson GM. Perceived stress in a probability sample of the United States. The Social Psychology of Health. 1988; 48-49.
Waghachavare VB, Dhumale GB, Kadam YR, Gore AD. A study of stress among students of professional colleges from an urban area in India. SQU Med Jor. 2013; 13 (3): 429-436.

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  • Control #: 2288728
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Heather Kindel, Margaret Calvert, Emily Knott, Mallory McPheron, Lauren Wingard, Jake Hershberger, Melissa Kline
  • Keywords:

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