Examining the Association Between Emotional Intelligence, Meaning in Life, Stress, and Burnout Among Pre‐Medical Students in the United States

Nayla Paulina Paulina Bejarano Chacón, University of Texas at El Paso


Background and significance: The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has estimated that by 2034 there will be a physician shortage of around 124,000 physicians. With burnout being one of the main drivers, it is crucial to assess it. Burnout is characterized by high levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism and low levels of academic efficacy. There has been substantial research on burnout among healthcare providers across different levels of training; however, few studies have examined burnout among undergraduate students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in healthcare. Given the shortage of healthcare providers in the United States, it is important to identify burnout not only among practicing healthcare providers but also among emerging healthcare providers (i.e., pre-medical students). Moreover, it is important to examine factors that are protective of burnout syndrome to promote well-being and ensure the retention of essential healthcare providers. Based on previous literature, meaning in life and emotional intelligence could be protective factors for the development of burnout. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to a) identify burnout severity among a sample of pre-medical students; b) determine if burnout dimensions differ across participants' generational status; and c) investigate the relationship between psychological factors, such as meaning in life, emotional intelligence, and perceived stress, and their association with burnout severity. Hypotheses: It was hypothesized that first-generation students would report higher levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism and lower levels of academic efficacy than non-first-generation students. Additionally, it was hypothesized that there would be significant associations between meaning in life and emotional intelligence dimensions, stress, and burnout subscales (emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and academic efficacy). Methods: This cross-sectional study used the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Student Survey to assess burnout in pre-medical students. An ANOVA was conducted to test burnout differences by generational status. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify student factors that may be associated with burnout dimensions (emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and academic efficacy). Results: The students reported moderate levels of emotional exhaustion, low cynicism, and moderate to high academic efficacy. Additionally, 84.9% of students believe that a career in medicine fulfills their life's purpose. There was no significant difference between generational status and burnout. Regression analysis denoted that for emotional exhaustion, the most influential variables were the use of emotions, regulation of emotions, and perceived stress (R2 = .278, p-value=.045). For cynicism, the use of emotion and year in school were significant factors (R2 = .258, p-=.035). For academic efficacy, the presence of meaning, search for meaning, and GPA played a significant role (R2 =.277, p-=.003). Conclusion: The pre-medical students in this study did not meet the criteria for burnout, but rather seemed engaged in their studies and displayed high levels of meaning in life and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence and meaning in life may be used as preventive tools for burnout in pre-medical students. Recommendation: Understanding the factors that protect and contribute to future healthcare professionals is crucial for healthcare. Burnout is a public health crisis, and early identification of factors that promote the well-being of pre-medical students is suggested.

Subject Area

Public health|Mental health|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Bejarano Chacón, Nayla Paulina Paulina, "Examining the Association Between Emotional Intelligence, Meaning in Life, Stress, and Burnout Among Pre‐Medical Students in the United States" (2023). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30635226.