Depression, stigma, and suicidal ideation in medical students

JAMA. 2010 Sep 15;304(11):1181-90. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.1300.


Context: There is a concerning prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation among medical students, a group that may experience poor mental health care due to stigmatization.

Objective: To characterize the perceptions of depressed and nondepressed medical students regarding stigma associated with depression.

Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional Web-based survey conducted in September-November 2009 among all students enrolled at the University of Michigan Medical School (N = 769).

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of self-reported moderate to severe depression and suicidal ideation and the association of stigma perceptions with clinical and demographic variables.

Results: Survey response rate was 65.7% (505 of 769). Prevalence of moderate to severe depression was 14.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.3%-17.3%). Women were more likely than men to have moderate to severe depression (18.0% vs 9.0%; 95% CI for difference, -14.8% to -3.1%; P = .001). Third- and fourth-year students were more likely than first- and second-year students to report suicidal ideation (7.9% vs 1.4%; 95% CI for difference, 2.7%-10.3%; P = .001). Students with moderate to severe depression, compared with no to minimal depression, more frequently agreed that "if I were depressed, fellow medical students would respect my opinions less" (56.0% vs 23.7%; 95% CI for difference, 17.3%-47.3%; P < .001), and that faculty members would view them as being unable to handle their responsibilities (83.1% vs 55.1%; 95% CI for difference, 16.1%-39.8%; P < .001). Men agreed more commonly than women that depressed students could endanger patients (36.3% vs 20.1%; 95% CI for difference, 6.1%-26.3%; P = .002). First- and second-year students more frequently agreed than third- and fourth-year students that seeking help for depression would make them feel less intelligent (34.1% vs 22.9%; 95% CI for difference, 2.3%-20.1%; P < .01).

Conclusions: Depressed medical students more frequently endorsed several depression stigma attitudes than nondepressed students. Stigma perceptions also differed by sex and class year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Prejudice*
  • Prevalence
  • Schools, Medical
  • Sex Factors
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Young Adult