Medical students preferring a surgical or non-surgical elective differ in their emotional and hormonal responses to a psychological stressor

Blair T. Crewther, Christian J. Cook

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This study examined a possible link between the elective preferences of medical students (surgical vs. non-surgical) and their emotional and hormonal responses to a psychological stressor. Forty medical students completed a laboratory stressor comprising of 10 puzzles in a time-limited format. Emotional state was assessed before (competitiveness, anxiety) and after (stress, enjoyment) testing, along with changes in salivary testosterone (ΔT) and cortisol (ΔC). Comparisons were made according to individual preferences for a surgical (n = 16) or non-surgical (n = 24) elective. Those seeking surgery had a lower 2D:4D (d = −2.0) with higher competitiveness scores (d = 2.7), but less anxiety (d = −0.9) and stress (d = −0.8). They also had a larger ΔT (17% vs. 6%) and smaller ΔC (7% vs. 12%) from the non-surgical cohort. Significant interrelationships were observed between 2D:4D, competitiveness, anxiety, stress and hormones. In summary, in students at a career stage of considering options in medicine, differences in stress responsivity were seen in those considering surgery, as compared to those considering other specialities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2019


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