Knowledge and Barriers to a Healthy Lifestyle in Medical Students

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Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Across the US, chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, largely result from poor lifestyle decisions such as diet, tobacco/alcohol use, and physical inactivity. Medical students' healthy lifestyle habits drastically decline during medical school, which can result in severe medical conditions, future poor patient outcomes, and burnout. However, little evidence exists on what perceived barriers medical students hold on lifestyle behaviors or how well they understand the relationship between specific lifestyle behaviors and their impact on health. This study included data from a self-selected sample of 127 medical students aged 22-41 years. Measures included the perceived health impact of 14 different lifestyle and dietary behaviors, self-reported barriers to lifestyle behaviors, and basic demographic questions. Results showed an average correlation of −.004 between participants' perceived impact and the actual impact of the behaviors on health (SD =.25; CI = −.047 -.039). Results also identified perceived barriers across behaviors that impact health. Data suggests that medical students have insufficient knowledge of the impact of lifestyle behaviors on health. Interventions targeting a medical student population should include information on how to overcome perceived barriers and the impact of lifestyle behaviors on health. Incorporating such information will bolster future interventions' effectiveness.

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American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine