Background and Objectives: Exam anxiety is a commonly seen problem among medical students. Auricular acupuncture has been shown to have an anxiety-reducing effect, however, data on exam anxiety is limited. Research in dental and preoperative anxiety has indicated that anxiety level could be reduced by using ear acupoints on the non-dominant side. Therefore, this study aims to determine whether needling at acupoints on the non-dominant side can reduce exam anxiety in medical students.
Method: This is a prospective observational study on 32 students at The Faculty of Traditional Medicine, Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy. Eligible students received auricular acupuncture on the non-dominant side at the Master cerebral, Tranquilizer and Relaxation points. Levels of anxiety were measured using a visual analogue scale before and after the intervention as well as before the exam. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, heart rate, exam performance and adverse events occurring during the study were also collected.
Results: Exam anxiety level and heart rate decreased 30 minutes after auricular acupuncture (p<0.05). Before the exam, exam anxiety level and heart rate increased significantly compared to after the intervention but still lower than baseline (p<0.05). The exam anxiety level with heart rate at each time point did not differ significantly in gender and trait anxiety levels (p>0.05). No adverse events from auricular acupuncture were observed.
Conclusion: Auricular acupuncture at the Master cerebral, Tranquillizer and Relaxation points on the non-dominant side is effective in reducing exam anxiety in medical students.