More than a quarter of resident physicians experience depression or related symptoms, according to a new study. Experiences were similar regardless of residents’ specialty or country.
“These findings highlight an important issue in graduate medical education,” corresponding author Douglas A. Mata, M.D., M.P.H., a resident physician in pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release. “The prevalence of depression is much higher than in the general population.”
Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 54 studies that included 17,560 physicians in training over more than 50 years. Results are outlined in the report “Prevalence of Depression and Depressive Symptoms Among Resident Physicians” (Mata DA, et al. JAMA. Dec. 8, 2015, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2474424).
They found about 28.8% of trainees experienced depression or depressive symptoms. Among individual studies, the prevalence ranged from 20.9% to 43.2% and increased over the years.
Most participants in the studies that were analyzed used self-reporting tools. While not as highly regarded as clinical diagnostic interviews, they did provide anonymity that may have allowed residents to be more open, researchers said.
The authors also acknowledged limitations, including that studies had different designs, and factors like the environment of residency programs were not examined.
They concluded that better strategies are needed to prevent depression among trainees.
“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,” according to the study.