• stress;
  • burnout;
  • dental students;
  • mental health

Objectives: To determine the degree of psychological distress, the experience of emotional exhaustion, and the extent of stress associated with course work in dental students and to compare these measurements among seven European dental schools.

Design: Multi-centred survey.

Setting: Dental Schools at Amsterdam, Belfast, Cork, Greifswald, Helsinki, Liverpool and Manchester.

Participants: 333 undergraduate first-year dental students.

Measures: General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12), Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), Dental Environment Stress Questionnaire (DES), demographic variables.

Procedure: Questionnaire administered to all students attending first year course. Completed questionnaires sent to central office for processing.

Results: Seventy-nine percent of the sampled students responded. Over a third of the students (36%) reported significant psychological distress (morbidity) at the recommended cut-off point (>3 on GHQ). These scores were similar to those reported for medical undergraduates. Twenty-two percent recorded comparatively high scores on emotional exhaustion. A wide variation in these 2 measurements was found across schools (p's<0.001). Stress levels indicated by the DES were less variable (p>0.5). Some evidence showed that contact with patients and the level of support afforded by living at home may be protective.

Conclusion: Higher than expected levels of emotional exhaustion were found in a large sample of first-year undergraduate dental students in Europe.