Purpose: Early intervention to counter mental disorders during the course of studies in dentistry is indicated in view of the pronounced prevalence of burnout in this student collective. To assess the proportion of students in whom these risk states can be quantified in measurable parameters for concrete mental disorders, we conducted surveys among students of dental medicine during the first 2.5 years of their studies.
Methods: We surveyed a total of 163 students of dental medicine in their first 5 semesters of study. Standardized, validated psychological questionnaires on depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory; BDI-II) and mental and physical quality of life (Short Form Survey; SF-12) were used in the survey, with per-semester participant quotas of around 90%.
Results: Regarding depression, the students were within the range of the normal populace at the beginning of the 1st semester. Symptoms of depression then became more pronounced with every succeeding semester. In the fifth semester, the average levels determined were equivalent to a depression with a clinical treatment indication. Hardly any change was registered for physical wellbeing in the quality of life questionnaire. The mental sum scores, however, reflected dramatic downturns in quality of life. Highly significant correlations between the parameters described here - depressivity and mental quality of life - were observed in all semesters.
Conclusion: The participating students begin their course of studies at the level of the average populace for the symptoms surveyed, then develop, on average, a clinically manifest depression after 2.5 years. The personal experience of a deterioration of mental quality of life appears to be crucial in the phenomena observed.
Keywords: Burnout; Dentistry students; Depression; Mental quality of life.
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