Introduction: Mental disorders constitute an increasingly important public health problem in the general population. Therefore, investigation of the determinants and state of mental health of those who will be treating patients, that is, future medical doctors, is justified. The paper gives an account of a mental health survey of medical students at a university in Hungary.
Methods: A representative sample of year I-V students (N = 100) filled an anonymous standardized self-administered questionnaire that included demographic and socioeconomic items, mental well-being characterized by a sense of coherence (SOC) and psychological distress, as well as health behaviour. SOC was measured by the 13-item Antonovsky questionnaire and psychological distress was measured by the 12-item general health questionnaire (GHQ). Models for estimating mental well-being in relation to various determinants were built by backward stepwise regression.
Results: Almost one-fifth of the students scored above the strict threshold on the GHQ indicating notable psychological distress. SOC showed significant positive correlation with perceived health and significant negative correlation with psychological distress. SOC and psychological distress were determined by different sets of explanatory variables in the regression models. Psychological distress and the use of sedative without medical prescription are inversely related to SOC; whereas social support and female gender show positive correlation to SOC according to our estimation. SOC, as expected, was a strong explanatory variable for psychological distress, forecasting an improvement in the GHQ score.
Conclusion: Psychological distress was significantly greater in our sample of Hungarian medical students than in the same age group of the general population. Psychological distress is strongly related to SOC and can be estimated by our proposed models. Both SOC and psychological distress can be used to characterize the mental health of future medical doctors, the improvement of which needs attention even during their training.