The emotional intelligence of medical students: an exploratory cross-sectional study



Publication Details

Todres, M., Tsimtsiou, Z., Stephenson, A. & Jones, R. (2010). The emotional intelligence of medical students: an exploratory cross-sectional study. Medical Teacher, 32 (1), e42-e48.


Background: Emotional intelligence (EI) may be related to student characteristics (such as conscientiousness and empathy), and performance at medical school, although few studies have so far been conducted.

Aim: To investigate the association of EI with students' age, sex, ethnicity and stage of study at a London medical school.

Methods: All medical students were invited to complete an online EI instrument, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) version 2, a 141-item measure of the ability to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions. An additional questionnaire to gather demographic data was linked to the MSCEIT.

Results: We analysed 263 responses from a population of 2114 medical students after three reminders (12.3% response rate). Aggregated EI scores were similar through the curriculum. Age, sex and ethnicity explained 9.2% of the variance in aggregated EI scores. In terms of managing emotions, 6.7% of the variance was explained by the stage of study, with significantly higher scores for students in their final year compared to those in the first two years.

Conclusion: This exploratory study provides preliminary data on EI scores for UK medical students identifies factors associated with higher and lower scores and suggests that aggregated EI scores remain stable during medical training.

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