Every 4th Medical Student Suffers From Depression: is it the Norm?

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It’s terrifying that every 10th medical students reports suicidal thoughts. According to the data, medical students have depressive thoughts five times more likely than the general population, while 300 to 400 doctors commit suicide every year. Female physicians are 2.3 times more likely to commit suicide than the male. The risk of depression also increases by the start of studying, classing and training in medical school.

The medical professions need more scrambling with this appearance, as well as find out a ways to protect physicians from this risk.

The Facts and Statistics

medical student depression

The Journal of the American Medical Association published data from meta-analysis where were researched around 200 studies. There are 129,000 medical students, which participate in the research from 47 countries. They report depression or depressive symptoms in 27%, while 11% of them scramble with suicidal thoughts during medical school.

This has been a worldwide problem.

Similarly, data is founded on the research of Dr. Douglas Mata, the pathology resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He found out that 29% of medical residents practicing in a hospital feel symptoms of depression. In fact, symptoms of depression are present in all the periods of their professional activity, during beginning years in classes, but also through later years, when they practice in the hospital.

It is paradoxical only 16% of them try to find help for their impaired psychical condition.  Why, if they should recognize the symptoms better than the rest of population?

What Is It About the Medical School That Affects the Occurrence of Depression Among the Students?


Training in medical school is very competitive, stressful and long time-consuming. Medical school has the label of a “high-pressure environment” because of these traits. It requires a long time of studying and a short time of sleeping.

Besides, the students often refer ruthless from teachers and even colleges which is one of the reasons they are insecure about not being smart enough or prepared for medical science studies. Many of the students lose self-confidence in an environment like this, while it is known that reduced confidence is one of the risk factors for the occurrence of anxiety and depression.

Another risk factor for depression is a lack of sleep. Medical students get the chronical lack of sleep because of the long term studying and working overnight shifts at hospitals.

All this exhaust the body and mind, so some of the students don’t even fall in depression but have suicidal thoughts.

During the study in medical school, as well as training medical residency, students also experience the stigma attached to mental disorders, despite learning contrary. Competition is so strong, that any sign of weakness is the reason for concluding you aren’t good enough.

Another irritating circumstance is a lack of money. Sometimes there is not enough money to do everyday things. In situations like that many of them doubt if their decision to go to medical school is the right decision. At last, medical students graduate with debt of about $180,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. It is huge ballast for valet and it bothers one practitioner beginner, even before graduating.

What Kind of Struggle Use Medical Schools to Protect Their Students and Residents Against Depression?


The medical profession is scrambling to find the solution for changing the trend of “suicidal profession”.

Psychiatry departments in some medical school provide programs for students who seek help. It is a good shift in the fight against depression among students, because services like that may offer free professional counseling. But the meta-analysis of Dr. Mata found that only 16% students who screened positive for depression seek professional help.

Residents often work shifts more than 24 hours at a time, while a lot of them move their lives to a new place because of their residency. That requires huge mental, emotional and physical effort. Because of it, Dr. Mata reveals that at the beginning of a residency cycle, if the residents need to go abroad, mental health issues could crop up.

Dr. Slavin, from Office of Curricular Affairs at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in Missouri, suggested reducing curricular hours for 10%. He mentions that it might “reduce the volume of material and the level of detail, changing to pass/fail grading and encouraging students to become involved in elective and volunteer activities that they cared about.”

Dr. Srijan Sen, another author of the study and a psychiatrist at The University of Michigan, mentioned it could help if medical centers hired more doctors, nurses, and physician assistants to off-load some of the work residents have when they asked for free days. A lot of the extra work isn’t really helping their education.

Dr. John Schumann, who supervised residents for more than a decade at the University of Oklahoma Medical Centre, has noticed that some residents struggle with mental health issues as they learn firsthand how to handle with big professional and at the same time emotional challenges, like pronouncing a patient’s death. He says that “Residents should be able to debrief about some of their experiences as much as they want or need to.”  He stands up for supervising residents in painful professional moments like above mentioned.

Prejudices About Medical Profession


Prejudices are a certain aggravating factor for fixing the problem about depression among the students and residents.

One of them is that the students in medical school should be strong enough for extremely rigorous and demanding environments. If they are not, then they should probably seek another profession, as well as not worry about themselves, but only about patients.

On the other hand, related to mental illness, there is an opinion that mental problem has not been taken as seriously as physical problems, while depression is kind of a weakness which is unappetizing as the problem of medical professionals.

The stigma, which follows mental illness in the medical community, becomes arrogance. It is likely a significant cause because of which students give up from seeking help.

However, we all agree on one thing, that medical schools could step up only if they would care the mental health crisis among medical students. Also, the cause of the crisis is deep in medical school administrations, as well as in the culture and conditions in the educational environment.

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