Survey of the prevalence of burnout, stress, depression, and the use of supports by medical students at one school

Acad Psychiatry. 2012 May 1;36(3):177-82. doi: 10.1176/appi.ap.11040079.


Objective: The authors determined the prevalence of stress, depression, and burnout in medical students and the resources used by students in one school to alleviate psychological distress.

Methods: A survey was administered to 526 students in the first 3 years of medical school (336 responders; response rate: 70%) at one institution, using a modified Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS), the two-question PRIME-MD depression screening survey, the Perceived Medical School Stress Scale, along with questions on demographics and helpful programs to cope with stress.

Results: The percentage of respondents scoring in the High Burnout range was approximately 55% for all three subscales. Depressive symptoms were reported by 60% of respondents. The most helpful coping mechanisms reported were social support from peers and faculty, counseling services, and extracurricular activities.

Conclusions: The prevalences of burnout, depression, and stress were higher in this sample of first- through third-year medical students when compared with other medical student groups previously studied. Important limitations of this research included the fact that it was cross-sectional in design and that the PRIME-MD tool is simply a screening tool and does not diagnose major depression. Medical educators, deans, and administrators should appreciate the possibility of higher levels of psychological distress among their own students than those previously reported.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United States