Prevalence of psychological distress among health sciences students: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Afaf Saleh Almansoof, Emad Masuadi, Amani Al-Muallem, Sajida Agha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Psychological distress (PD) is considered as an indicator of students’ psychological well-being status in epidemiological studies. The study objectives were to systematically review articles to estimate the pooled prevalence of PD among Health Sciences undergraduate and to assess the effect of study characteristics on the pooled PD prevalence. The protocol was developed using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Different information sources included PUBMED, EMBASE, OVID, EBESCO (ERIC, CINIHAL, and PsycInfo), ISI, and Scopus were searched to identify peer-reviewed English-language studies published before September 2020 reporting different PD types including stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression among Health Sciences students. For each search term, related synonymous was used. In addition, study characteristics’ variables included academic years, regions, specialties, study years, gender, and PD types were specified. Prevalence estimates were pooled using random-effect meta-analysis and for studies characteristics effects the subgroup analysis and Meta regression were used with significance threshold of P < 0.05. Literature search identified 28 high-quality-cross-sectional studies on PD with a total sample size of 11,761 Health Sciences students of both genders, from all study years, Saudi regions (except Northern), and Health Sciences colleges. Overall pooled PD prevalence was 51.0% [(CI 95% (44.0–58.0)]. Pooled prevalence estimates were significantly affected by gender and PD types (P > 0.05). This systematic review and meta-analysis revealed a high prevalence of PD among Health Sciences undergraduate students. A significant association was found among gender, and PD types with the pooled prevalence. Protocol registration King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC Registration Number: SP/493/R) and International Prospective Register of Systematic Review (PROSPERO Registration Number: CRD42020223514).

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuality and Quantity
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Health sciences students
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological distress
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • General Social Sciences


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