Study finds high rate of depression among resident physicians

December 08, 2015

An analysis that included more than 17,000 physicians in training finds that nearly one-third screened positive for depression or depressive symptoms during residency, according to a study in the December 8 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on medical education.

Studies have suggested that resident physicians experience higher rates of depression than the general public. Beyond the effects of depression on individuals, resident depression has been linked to poor-quality patient care and increased medical errors. However, the estimated prevalence of this disorder varies substantially between studies. A reliable estimate of depression prevalence during medical training is important for informing efforts to prevent, treat, and identify causes of depression among residents, according to background information in the article.

Douglas A. Mata, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 54 studies involving 17,560 physicians. Studies were included that had information on the prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms among resident physicians, and were published between January 1963 and September 2015. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they used a validated method to assess for depression or depressive symptoms. Three studies used clinical interviews and 51 used self-report instruments.

The researchers found that the overall pooled prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms was 29 percent (4,969/17,560 individuals). Prevalence estimates ranged from 21 percent to 43 percent, depending on how the prevalence was measured. There was an increased prevalence with increasing calendar year. In a secondary analysis of 7 longitudinal studies, the median absolute increase in depressive symptoms with the onset of residency training was 16 percent. No statistically significant differences were observed between studies of only interns vs only upper-level residents, or studies of nonsurgical vs both nonsurgical and surgical 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. 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 authors write.

"Further research is needed to identify effective strategies for preventing and treating depression among physicians in training."

(doi:10.1001/jama.2015.15845; Available pre-embargo to the media at http:/

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Editorial: Resident Depression

Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., of the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, comments on the findings of this study in an accompanying editorial.

"The solutions to this endemic can be classified into 3 categories: provide more and better mental health care to depressed physicians and those in training, limit the trainees' exposure to the training environment and system that are thought to contribute at least in part to poorer mental health and wellness, and consider the possibility that the medical training system needs more fundamental change."

"The prevalence of depressive symptomatology and disease in physicians in training reported by Mata et al is a significant and important marker for deeper and more profound problems in the graduate medical education system that is in need of equally profound change."

(doi:10.1001/jama.2015.15408; Available pre-embargo to the media at http:/
Editor's Note: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

The JAMA Network Journals

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to