Depression Prevalent in Resident Physicians

Nearly one-quarter of resident physicians are depressed or experience depressive symtoms.

About a quarter of resident physicians are depressed or experience depressive symptoms, according to a report published in JAMA.


Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System reviewed published studies surrounding depressive symptoms and depression in resident physicians published in the past 50 years in order to provide a summary estimate of depression or depressive symptom prevalence among resident physicians. The researchers searched databases like Embase, Eric, Medline and PsychINFO for the studies, and they were included in the analysis if they were published in the peer reviewed literature and used a validated method to assess depression and depressive symptoms. There were about 60 studies included in the analysis, encompassing almost 20,000 individuals.


The researchers noted that resident physicians are at a high risk for depression, but the prevalence is varied due to the various study methods.


Depression or depressive symptoms were found in about one-third of resident physicians, and prevalence estimates ranged from 21% to 43%, depending on how the studies were conducted. With each calendar year, there was increased prevalence of depression, the researchers reported.


Looking specifically at the longitudinal studies, there was an increase in depressive symptoms with the onset of residency training by 16%.

There did not appear to be a statistically significant difference between studies with interns only or upper level residents, or studies of nonsurgical or both surgical and nonsurgical residents.


“Because the development of depression has been linked to a higher risk of future depressive episodes and greater long term morbidity, these findings may affect the long-term health of resident doctors,” the authors wrote. “Depression among residents may also affect patients, given established associations between physician depression and lower quality care. These findings highlight an important issue in graduate medical education.”


The researchers believe that their findings can provide a more accurate insight into the prevalence of depression into newly minted physicians. The team wants to shed more light on this issue and hopes that the mental health of young doctors will become a new focal point. Their future goal is for the identification of prevention and treatment strategies for medical trainees with depression.


“The increase in depression is surprising and important, especially in light of reforms that have been implemented over the years with the intent of improving the mental health of residents and the health of patients,” senior author Srijan Sen, MD, PhD, explained in a press release.


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