Resident wellness behaviors: relationship to stress, depression, and burnout

Fam Med. 2013 Sep;45(8):541-9.


Background and objectives: Stress in medical education has been well documented, often with the primary focus on negative factors such as depression and burnout. Few studies have attempted to assess well-being mediating behaviors. This study describes the relationship between wellness behaviors and measures of well-being at the start of family medicine residency.

Methods: Using an online questionnaire, first-year family medicine residents (n=168) completed standardized measures exploring perceived stress, depression, satisfaction with life, and burnout. A lifestyle wellness behavior measure was developed for the study.

Results: Average reported perceived stress levels were consistent with ranges found for medical students and residents. Twenty-three percent of residents scored in a range consistent with depression risk. In terms of burnout risk, 13.7% scored in the high emotional exhaustion range and 23.8% in the high depersonalization range. Two thirds reported high life satisfaction. Higher depersonalization and less time in nurturing relationships were associated with greater likelihood of medication use for sleep, mood, and anxiety in females. Higher alcohol use was associated with increased levels of perceived stress, burnout, and depression. The two wellness behaviors most associated with higher well-being were restful sleep and exercise.

Conclusions: At the start of residency, well-being measures are consistent with findings in medical school. Restful sleep and exercise were associated with more positive well-being. Future longitudinal data analysis will help clarify the effect of residency training in well-being and lifestyle behaviors. Identification of protective factors and coping mechanisms could guide residencies in incorporating support services for residents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires