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Open Access Research article

Perceived stress and gastrointestinal symptoms in nursing students in Korea: A cross-sectional survey

Eun Young Lee1*, Mi Suk Mun2, Seon Hye Lee3 and Ho Soon Michelle Cho4

Author affiliations

1 Institute for Community Health, Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea

2 Department of Nursing, Chungju National University, Jeungpyeong, Korea

3 Department of Nursing, Dong U College, Sokcho, Korea

4 College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Nursing 2011, 10:22  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-10-22

Published: 8 November 2011



Although nursing students experience a high level of stress during their training, there has been limited research on stress and its impact on the student's physical responses, such as gastrointestinal symptoms. The aims of this study are to assess the prevalence of GI symptoms in nursing students in Korea and to examine the association between the perceived stress and GI symptoms.


A cross-sectional descriptive study design was used. A total of 715 students of a three-year associate degree nursing program in a Korean college participated. The Perceived Stress Scale and a GI Symptoms Questionnaire were administered through a self-reported system. Chi-square tests, Fisher's exact test, and logistic regression analysis were performed using SPSS 17.0.


Sixty-five percent of the nursing students experienced more than one GI symptom, with 31.1% of students reporting more than three GI symptoms. Most of the nursing students complained of upper dysmotility and bowel symptoms. In addition, students who reported higher perceived stress were significantly more likely to complain of GI symptoms. Compared to nursing students with the lowest perceived stress level, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for GI symptoms in students with the highest perceived stress level was 3.52 times higher (95% CI = 2.05-6.06).


GI symptoms that are highly prevalent among nursing students are significantly associated with the perceived stress level. High perceived stress should be considered a risk factor for GI symptoms. To reduce perceived stress, stress management programs including cognitive reappraisal training are needed in nursing curriculum.