A three-wave longitudinal study on the relation between commuting strain and somatic symptoms in university students: exploring the role of learning-family conflicts

BMC Psychol. 2021 Dec 20;9(1):199. doi: 10.1186/s40359-021-00702-7.


BACKGROUND: We examine the role of learning-family conflicts for the relation between commuting strain and health in a sample of medical university students. The first goal of the study was to investigate the mediating role of learning-family conflicts. The second goal was to extend the temporal view on relations between study variables. Therefore, we differentiated long-term systematic change among variables over a period of two-years from a dynamic perspective with repeated commuting events on the individual level of analyses.

METHODS: We applied a multilevel research design and collected survey data from 128 medical students on three points in time (N = 339 measurement points). Participants informed about commuting strain, learning-family conflicts, somatic symptoms, as well as commuting distance and time.

RESULTS: Bayesian multilevel analyses showed that results differed with regard to level of analysis: while learning-family conflicts mediated the relation between commuting strain and somatic symptoms on a systematic aggregation-level perspective of analysis (indirect effect estimatebetween = 0.13, SE = .05, 95% CI [0.05; ∞), Evidence Ratio = 250.57), this was not the case on the dynamic event perspective (indirect effect estimatewithin = 0.00, SE = 0.00, 95% CI [- 0.01; ∞), Evidence Ratio = 0.84).

CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that learning-family conflicts explain why commuting may have unfavorable effects on health for medical students. We also showed that it is the long-term commuting experience that is related to health complaints and not the single commuting event. This means that short-term deviations from general levels of commuting strain do not cause somatic symptoms, but general high levels of commuting strain do instead.

PMID:34930482 | DOI:10.1186/s40359-021-00702-7

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