Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

What do medical students think about their quality of life? A qualitative study

Patricia Tempski1*, Patricia L Bellodi1, Helena BMS Paro12, Sylvia C Enns1, Milton A Martins1 and Lilia B Schraiber1

Author affiliations

1 Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Dr. Arnaldo, 455 – Cerqueira César, São Paulo, SP, 01246-903, Brazil

2 Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Av. Pará, 1720 - Umuarama, Uberlândia, MG, 38408-144, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:106  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-106

Published: 5 November 2012



Medical education can affect medical students’ physical and mental health as well as their quality of life. The aim of this study was to assess medical students’ perceptions of their quality of life and its relationship with medical education.


First- to sixth-year students from six Brazilian medical schools were interviewed using focus groups to explore what medical student’s lives are like, factors related to increases and decreases of their quality of life during medical school, and how they deal with the difficulties in their training.


Students reported a variety of difficulties and crises during medical school. Factors that were reported to decrease their quality of life included competition, unprepared teachers, excessive activities, and medical school schedules that demanded exclusive dedication. Contact with pain, death and suffering and harsh social realities influence their quality of life, as well as frustrations with the program and insecurity regarding their professional future. The scarcity of time for studying, leisure activities, relationships, and rest was considered the main factor of influence. Among factors that increase quality of life are good teachers, classes with good didactic approaches, active learning methodologies, contact with patients, and efficient time management. Students also reported that meaningful relationships with family members, friends, or teachers increase their quality of life.


Quality of teachers, curricula, healthy lifestyles related to eating habits, sleep, and physical activity modify medical students’ quality of life. Lack of time due to medical school obligations was a major impact factor. Students affirm their quality of life is influenced by their medical school experiences, but they also reframe their difficulties, herein represented by their poor quality of life, understood as necessary and inherent to the process of becoming doctors.

Quality of life; Student; Medical; Medical education