Objectives: Depression is more frequently experienced and induces more severe consequences in medical students than in the general population. However, treatment rates for depression in medical students are still low. In this study, the authors investigated factors that affect treatment for depression and dispositions towards treating depression among South Korean medical students.
Methods: A nationwide, cross-sectional survey was administered to medical students attending all 41 medical schools in South Korea (14,095 students). The questionnaire included the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and asked for data on socio-demographic variables, history of diagnosis or treatment for depression, knowledge of mental health problems and disposition to use mental health care.
Results: A total of 7357 students (52.2%) from 36 schools responded to the survey. Of these, 689 (9.4%) were identified as being depressed via a BDI score higher than 16. Of the depressed respondents, only 61 (8.9%) had been diagnosed with depression and 67 (9.7%) had been treated for depression. Age was significantly associated with treatment behaviour for depression. Correct knowledge about the aetiology of depression and psychiatric medicine was significantly related to students' disposition to use psychiatric services and to receive psychopharmacotherapy as an option to resolve depression.
Conclusions: Accurate knowledge of depression and appropriate medication seems to be relevant to students seeking appropriate treatment for depression. The development of education programmes designed to improve medical students' knowledge of mental health problems and treatments would facilitate treatment seeking in medical students.