Medical student distress: causes, consequences, and proposed solutions

Mayo Clin Proc. 2005 Dec;80(12):1613-22. doi: 10.4065/80.12.1613.


The goal of medical education is to graduate knowledgeable, skillful, and professional physicians. The medical school curriculum has been developed to accomplish these ambitions; however, some aspects of training may have unintended negative effects on medical students' mental and emotional health that can undermine these values. Studies suggest that mental health worsens after students begin medical school and remains poor throughout training. On a personal level, this distress can contribute to substance abuse, broken relationships, suicide, and attrition from the profession. On a professional level, studies suggest that student distress contributes to cynicism and subsequently may affect students' care of patients, relationship with faculty, and ultimately the culture of the medical profession. In this article, we review the manifestations and causes of student distress, its potential adverse personal and professional consequences, and proposed institutional approaches to decrease student distress.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology