Depressive symptoms in medical students and residents: a multischool study

Acad Med. 2009 Feb;84(2):236-41. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819391bb.


Background: This multisite, anonymous study assessed depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in medical trainees (medical students and residents).

Method: In 2003-2004, the authors surveyed medical trainees at six sites. Surveys included content from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (CES-D) and the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) (measures for depression), as well as demographic content. Rates of reported major and minor depression and of suicidal ideation were calculated. Responses were compared by level of training, gender, and ethnicity.

Results: More than 2,000 medical students and residents responded, for an overall response rate of 89%. Based on categorical levels from the CES-D, 12% had probable major depression and 9.2% had probable mild/moderate depression. There were significant differences in depression by trainee level, with a higher rate among medical students; and gender, with higher rates among women (chi2 = 10.42, df = 2, and P = .005 and chi2 = 22.1, df = 2, and P < .001, respectively). Nearly 6% reported suicidal ideation, with differences by trainee level, with a higher rate among medical students; and ethnicity, with the highest rate among black/African American respondents and the lowest among Caucasian respondents (chi2 = 5.19, df = 1, and P = .023 and chi2 = 10.42, df = 3, and P = .015, respectively).

Conclusions: Depression remains a significant issue for medical trainees. This study highlights the importance of ongoing mental health assessment, treatment, and education for medical trainees.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide Prevention
  • United States