Objective

Health professional students' mental health and lifestyle behaviors may impact their personal health as well as their clinical practice. The objective of our retrospective study was to see if there were changes in students' mental health and lifestyle behaviors during their doctor of chiropractic program (DCP).

Methods

In 2019, we identified health center files for 198 students who graduated from our DCP between 2015 and 2016, of which 69% (n = 137) contained Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) consent forms granting permission for file review. From each of these files, we extracted mental health and lifestyle behavior data that students self-reported at the beginning and end of their DCP. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics, paired t test, sign test, and McNemar's chi-square test.

Results

The majority of our students reported drinking alcohol, engaging in regular exercise, and not smoking at the beginning and end of our DCP. Comparing pre and post data, there was a statistically significant increase in water, fruit, and vegetable consumption along with an increased proportion of students reporting eating junk food and drinking 1 or more servings of caffeine (p ≤ .002). The proportion of students reporting anxiety or depression decreased between the beginning and end of our DCP (p = .002).

Conclusion

This study provided information about student mental health and lifestyle behaviors at 1 DCP. We recommend future studies use validated questionnaires across multiple DCPs. There also may be a need for intervention research to decrease DCP student alcohol use.

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Author notes

Krista Ward (corresponding author) is a research specialist and adjunct faculty member in the Research Department at Life Chiropractic College West (25001 Industrial Blvd, Hayward, CA 94545; kward@lifewest.edu). Koen Kallop is a professor/health center mentor in the health center at Life Chiropractic College West (25001 Industrial Blvd, Hayward, CA 94545; kkallop@lifewest.edu). Sergio Tony Fernando is a professor in clinical sciences at Life Chiropractic College West (25001 Industrial Blvd, Hayward, CA 94545; sfernando@lifewest.edu). Monica Smith is the research director at Life Chiropractic College West (25001 Industrial Blvd, Hayward, CA 94545; Msmith@lifewest.edu).

Concept development: KK, SF, MS. Design: KK, SF, MS, KW Supervision: MS, KK, SF Data collection/processing: KK, SF, MS, KW Analysis/interpretation: KW, MS, KK, SF. Literature search: KW, SF, KK, MS Writing: KW, MS, KK, SF. Critical review: KW, MS, KK, SF.