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1 in 4 Doctors Suffer From Depression Symptoms

1 in 4 Doctors Suffer From Depression Symptoms

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The medical profession is a stressful place to be in. Becoming a doctor is a very long enduring process that can take over a decade. Being one is even more challenging. Now, research reveals that one in four doctors in the early stages of their careers suffer from signs of depression.

This is bad news, not just for the doctor, but for the patients themselves. The article notes that depressed doctors are more likely to make mistakes or give inadequate care. These findings come from a careful investigation of 50 years’ worth of studies that look for depression symptoms in over 17,500 medical residents.

The study, published the new issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was led by a current resident at Harvard and a University of Michigan Medical School psychiatrist who specializes in studying physician mental health. The research team focused on finding answers to questions that had been contemplated and researched many times in many ways: What percentage of new doctors might be depressed, and how much does that change over time?

The researchers concluded that 28.8 percent of physicians-in-training have signs of depression. The researchers arrived to that conclusion came after collecting and combining data from 54 studies around the world.  It is important to note as well that depression rates have increased over the past five decades.

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,” says Srijan Sen, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the new study

Sen is a member of U-M’s Depression Center, Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute. He runs the Intern Health Study which is a study that focuses mainly on understanding stress and mood issues people face in the first year of training after medical school.

The study enrolls 3,000 medical interns at 50 sites each year and monitors their progress.  Sen worked with the study’s lead author Douglas Mata, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard University — and the other authors to pull together and analyze a wide range of studies.

The study focused primarily on medical students during their post-medical school training years, called internship and residency. These years are typically incredibly demanding.

“Our findings provide a more accurate measure of the prevalence of depression in this group, and we hope that they will focus attention on factors that may negatively affect the mental health of young doctors, with the goal of identifying strategies to prevent and treat depression among graduate medical trainees,” Mata says.

Incoming doctors have to handle long hours, intensive on-the-job learning, low rank within a medical team, and a high level of responsibility for minute-to-minute patient care. As a result, the percentage ranged from 20 percent up to 43 percent, however the bottom line when all the data were equalized and tallied together came out to 28.8 percent. Using this information, researchers hope more of an emphasis can be place on mental health in doctors during the early stages of their career.

While many medical schools and teaching hospitals have begun to address student and trainee mental health more completely in recent years, more needs to be done.If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
Author: Shernide Delva

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