29 Percent Of New Doctors Affected By Depression

First Posted: Dec 09, 2015 11:04 AM EST

Doctors in the early stages of their career are at an increased risk of depression, according to a comprehensive international review.

Researchers looked for depressive symptoms in over 17,500 medical residents--showing that close to one-third of those from the sample screened positive for depression or had symptoms during their medical training. The implications of the findings are not only important for future doctors but also for patients.

"The medical profession has a major problem," Dr. Thomas S. Schwenk, dean of the University of Nevada School of Medicine, wrote in an editorial that accompanies the study. "These findings could be easily construed as describing a depression endemic among residents and fellows."

Researchers analyzed data from 54 earlier studies involving the sample of medical residents, which tracked some doctors at a single point and time and others for up to six years of their internship or residency, according to The Los Angeles Times. About two-thirds of the studies involved doctors in North America, while others focused on residencies in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. The studies used questionnaires to help determine symptoms of depression.

Estimates of depression varied widely from 20 to 43 percent. However, a main group of about 29 percent reported depression, researchers say.

An additional analysis in which researchers analyzed longitudinal studies showed an increase of about 15 percent in depressive symptoms within a year of the start of residency.

Researchers believe that a healthier environment for medical training could help to lessen the risks of depression among residents as well as the understanding and processing of the traumatic events that they see.

The research is published in JAMA.

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