Indian Journal of Public Health

: 2015  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 310--313

Assessment and determinants of emotional intelligence and perceived stress among students of a medical college in south India

Nitin Joseph1, Nita Joseph2, Vishakha Panicker3, Maria Nelliyanil4, Ashok Jindal5, Raj Viveki6,  
1 Associate Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Manipal University, Mangalore, India
2 Dental Surgeon, Al Nile Dental Clinic, Sohar, Oman
3 MBBS Student, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Mangalore, India
4 Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, AJ Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Mangalore, India
5 Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Armed Force Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
6 Professor and Head, Department of Community Medicine, Belgaum Institute of Medical Sciences, Belgaum, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Nitin Joseph
Associate Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Mangalore, Karnataka


Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. Stress resulting from having to meet professional demands is common in the medical student«SQ»s life. The perceived stress (PS) can be either an input or an outflow of EI or the lack thereof. This study was done to assess EI levels and to find out its association with sociodemographic variables and PS among medical students. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire from 198 first-year and 208 second-year medical students. EI scores were found to increase with age (r = 0.169, P = 0.004). PS scores were found to be higher among first-year students (P = 0.05). PS scores were found to decrease with increase in EI scores (r = −0.226, P < 0.001). Hence, if sufficient measures to improve EI are provided in the beginning, it would make students more stress-free during their training years at medical schools.

How to cite this article:
Joseph N, Joseph N, Panicker V, Nelliyanil M, Jindal A, Viveki R. Assessment and determinants of emotional intelligence and perceived stress among students of a medical college in south India.Indian J Public Health 2015;59:310-313

How to cite this URL:
Joseph N, Joseph N, Panicker V, Nelliyanil M, Jindal A, Viveki R. Assessment and determinants of emotional intelligence and perceived stress among students of a medical college in south India. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Jan 30 ];59:310-313
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Full Text

The term "emotional intelligence" (EI) describes the "ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate between them and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions." [1] As feelings take precedence over thoughts in making decisions, the emotional mind is believed to be faster than the rational mind. [2]

Today, the rules of the workplace are rapidly changing and people are judged not merely in terms of academic qualifications or expertise but also by how well they are able to handle themselves and collaborate with others. [2]

EI is essential in the medical field as it has been reported to be a predictor of the interpersonal and communication skills essential for improving doctor-patient relationships. [3] Persons with high EI are known to better recognize potential stressors and can cope up with stress using emotions. [4] Thus, low EI could lead to maladjustments among students and would adversely influence their academic performance during medical training. This is an important quality medical schools are looking for in applicants now a days. [3] A systematic review found improvement in the EI of students who have undergone tailored educational programs in medical schools. [5] Before undertaking any such initiatives among students, medical educators need to have baseline information on EI.

For these reasons, this study was done to assess EI and to find out its association with various sociodemographic variables and perceived stress (PS) among medical students.

This cross-sectional study was done in March 2012 among first- and second-year MBBS students of a private medical college in Mangalore (or Mangaluru), a city in Karnataka, India. The first- and second-year students were only selected for this study because early identification of EI scores during the training years would maximize the potential of subsequent educational interventions.

Permission for conducting the study was obtained from the institutional ethics clearance committee. A sample size of 400 was calculated at 95% confidence level and 90% power and by assuming the prevalence of average-to-good EI scores to be 50% among students. The nature and purpose of the study were explained to all participants and their written informed consent was obtained. All consenting students were enrolled by the convenience sampling method. A standardized self-administered questionnaire was used to assess EI and PS.

Socioeconomic status (SES) was assessed using modified Kuppuswamy's classification, 2007. EI scores were assessed using a standardized questionnaire adapted from Philip Hunsaker's Training in Management Skills. [6] It contained a set of 25 questions with responses scored on the Likert scale. A score of 1 was allotted for "very slight ability," 2 for "slight ability," 3 for "moderate ability," 4 for "good ability," and 5 for "very good ability." Students with a cumulative score of above 100 were considered to have good, 50-100 as average, and below 50 as poor EI. PS was assessed using a stress questionnaire developed by the International Stress Management Association. [7] This contained a set of 25 questions with responses in "yes" or "no" format. Responses with "yes" were given 1 point and those with "no" were given 0 point each. A cumulative score of 4 or below was considered as a low level, 5-13 as an average level, and 14 or above as a high level of PS. Data entry and analysis was done using SPSS Inc., ver. 11.0 (Chicago, IL, USA). Associations between sociodemographic variables and EI and PS scores were studied using unpaired t-test and analysis of variance (ANOVA) test. Pearson's coefficient was used to test correlation. P ≤ 0.05 was taken as a statistically significant association.

Of the total of 406 students who took part in this study, a majority 160 (39.4%) were aged 19 years, with a mean age of 19.5 ± 0.97 years. A majority 223 (54.9%) were females, and a majority 208 (51.2%) were in their second year. Most participants [361 (88.9%)] were Indian nationals. Three-fourth of them belonged to middle SES [Table 1].{Table 1}

Of the total of 406 students, 41 (10.1%) were found to have high, 354 (87.2%) average, and 11 (2.7%) poor EI scores. The mean EI score among the participants was 80 ± 14.1.

Students aged 22 years or above had significantly higher EI scores compared to students of other age groups (P = 0.05). Correlation between age and EI scores was found to be significant (r = 0.169, P = 0.004). No association of EI was seen with gender, year of study, and residential status of students in this study. Similarly, EI did not differ significantly between high and middle SES [Table 1].

Of the total number of participants, 12 (3.0%) perceived low, 201 (49.5%) perceived average, and 193 (47.5%) perceived high levels of stress. The mean PS score among participants was 13.3 ± 4.2.

First-year students had significantly greater PS than second-year students (P = 0.05). No association of PS scores was observed with age, gender, and residential status of participants. Correlation between age and PS scores was also not significant (r = 0.092, P = 0.065). Similarly, PS did not differ significantly between high and middle SES [Table 1].

However, correlation between EI scores and PS scores showed a significantly negative correlation (r = −0.226, P < 0.001). The PS was found to significantly decrease with increasing EI scores.

Very few participants obtained poor EI scores, which was in contrast to the findings of a study done in Mumbai, among medical postgraduates, where more than 70% had poor EI scores. [8] In the latter study, the factors influencing higher EI scores were found to be less workload and more recreation activities, which are very rarely witnessed in postgraduate life, probably explaining the vast difference in EI scores between their study and our study done on undergraduate students. In another study done among first-year medical students in Mangalore, 15% had poor EI scores, which was again higher than our observations. [9]

EI scores were found to significantly increase with the age of the participants in this study, which was in accordance with the findings of other studies. [2],[10] The reasons could be due to influences of experiences in life and maturity with age on EI.

Even though EI was slightly higher among females, no gender-wise significant difference in EI was observed in this study. Other studies have found significantly higher EI scores among females. [2],[9],[10] This could be explained by the fact that women understand emotions better and have a greater ability with regard to certain interpersonal skills. [9] Few studies in contrast found significantly higher EI scores among males. [3],[8]

Here, no association of EI was observed with year of study, which was different from the findings of a study done in England where EI scores were better among senior students, probably due to their greater adjustment with their surroundings and academic life. [11]

EI scores were seen significantly higher among those students who were in regular contact with their family as opposed to those who were not in other studies. [8],[9] These studies explained this association as being due to the fact that family is the first school for emotional learning and concepts of understanding and managing emotions are first learned there. [12] However, no such association was observed in this study. In addition, other studies have found ethnicity to significantly influence EI scores, which was again different from our observations. [3],[11]

EI in this study was not associated with the SES of students, which again differed from the findings of the study done in Mumbai, where lower middle-class participants were found to have significantly high scores. [8]

PS was found to be significantly higher among first-year students compared to second-year students in this study, probably due to pressure on the beginners from course expectations and adjusting to a new environment. PS was found to significantly decrease with increasing EI. This was similar to the findings of a study done in Poland among medical students where persons with a high level of EI were found to be more flexible in coping with stressors and were more willingly to be active in confronting the problem[4].

As first-year students are more vulnerable to stress and the perceived stress decreases with increase in EI scores measures to improve EI need to be supported in the curriculum to make beginners more stress-free during early student life. Ultimately, higher EI would lead to students offering better emotional support to patients and their families later in their professional lives. Moreover it would also reduce perceived stress thus improving their academic performance. The end result would be more efficient health care professionals. The results of the present study may act as a stimulus for creating prevention projects focusing on improvement in EI rather than utilizing unconstructive ways of coping with occupational stress connected with the medical field.

The present study, though it has assessed EI, has not explored the improvement in the same following interventions in the teaching curriculum. Other important predictors of EI, such as language of instruction, previous academic performance, and lifestyle factors were not considered in this study. In addition, as the study was restricted to first-year and second-year students of a single private medical college, the study findings cannot be generalized.


We, the authors, thank MBBS students Ms. Suriani Ahmad, Ms. K Sphurti Kamath, Mr. Mohammed Sakhawi, and Ms. Farhana Ahmad of KMC Mangalore for their help in data collection. We also thank Dr. C Kannan, Professor and HOD, Department of Community Medicine, VMKV Medical College, Salem for his encouragement and support throughout this study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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