Cognitive emotions: depression and anxiety in medical students and staff

J Crit Care. 2009 Sep;24(3):e1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2009.06.003.


Background: Medical students represent a highly educated population under significant pressures. They encounter multiple emotions during the transformation from insecure student to young knowledgeable physician. During the transition to clinical settings in the third year, the student may experience a loss of external control and may counter this with an increase in depression and/or anxiety symptoms. Studies suggest that mental health worsens after students begin medical school and remains poor throughout training. It is not just the undergraduate study period, which brings about these changes; it may continue later in internship, postgraduate study, and in physicians' practical life, and it may reach burnout level. The greater the psychosocial health, the greater is the well-being and the capacity for adaptation and overcoming problems and common life frustrations in family, relationships, and work. Medical students and practicing physicians, in comparison with the general population and that of other professions, are exposed to academic and professional stress and therefore are vulnerable to psychosocial health problems and certain specific dysfunctions that may compromise their physical, mental, and social health.

Objectives: Our study examines the phenomenology of depression and anxiety in medical doctors in 3 government hospitals, 3 primary health care centers and the students (all years) and staff of Dubai Medical College for Girls (DMCG).

Subjects and methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in November 2008. One hundred sixty-five medical students of DMCG and 93 doctors (including medical staff of DMCG) completed a set of 2 questionnaires regarding Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) & Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). Results were analyzed using SPSS 11, and adequate statistical significant tests were done. A P value of <.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Of medical students, 28.6% showed depression and 28.7% showed anxiety. Of medical staff, 7.8% showed depression and 2.2% of them showed anxiety. The second-year medical students exhibited the highest percentage of depression and anxiety. There was a significant correlation between depression and anxiety among medical students (r = 0.6). "Crying" was the most common depressive symptom, and "fear of worst happening" was the most common anxiety manifestation in medical students.

Conclusion: The considerable amount of depression and anxiety found among doctors and students in this study should trigger further work. Studies using more powerful designs would help to illuminate the factors leading to depression and anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • United Arab Emirates / epidemiology