Journaling improves medical students’ study habits, physical and mental health

Journaling helped medical students improve their study habits, as well as their physical and mental health and self-confidence, according to a study from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. Physiology educator-researchers will present their findings this week at the American Physiological Society (APS) Institute on Teaching and Learning in Madison, Wisconsin.

The study was conducted on students attending a medical pharmacology course. In their journal, students answered four to five questions about their experience in the course and any personal challenges in a weekly survey. The questions fell into the categories of emotional and health perception, goals and commitments, study method and habits, learning perception, and teamwork. In a separate survey at the end the semester, students made the following assessments about the usefulness of journaling:

85% said it helped them achieve their goals,
69% said it helped organize their homework and assignments,
57% said it improved their physical and mental health,
54% said it improved their communication skills, and
51% said it improved their self-confidence.
The findings suggest journaling is a cost-effective way to:

promote better study habits and activity planning for university students,
promote a space for reflection about academic life,
allow professors a chance to see real-time challenges and motivations of students, and
serves as an effective tool to guide rapid adaptations of activities and content in the curriculum of biomedical courses.
Ricardo A. Pena-Silva, MD, Ph.D., is first author of the study. He reported at the end of the study 83% of student participants said they plan to continue journaling to boost their time management skills. “This is an important achievement given the emotional stress, anxiety and burnout of many medical students, especially during the pandemic,” Pena-Silva said. “Journaling is an easily implementable method to promote metacognition and mental health in students of biomedical careers.”