Self-reported depressive symptoms in dental students: Systematic review with meta-analysis

J Dent Educ. 2021 Feb;85(2):135-147. doi: 10.1002/jdd.12408. Epub 2020 Sep 15.


Objective: This study aimed to systematically review the literature about the prevalence of self-reported depressive symptoms in dental students.

Methods: PUBMED, SCOPUS, and EMBASE databases were search up to January 2020 with the following focused questions: "What is the prevalence of self-reported depression symptom in dental students?" and "Are sex and years of educational training associated with self-reported depressive symptom in dental students?". Observational studies that applied a questionnaire assessing depression were eligible. Standard mean differences (SMD) and pooled odds ratios (OR) were calculated for the questionnaires' scores and self-reported depressive symptom, respectively.

Results: Fifty-eight studies were included, and 15 different questionnaires were used. The prevalence of self-reported depressive symptoms/at least mild depression ranged from 2.75% to 89.84%, and the pooled overall prevalence was 29% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 26-34). Meta-analysis showed significantly lower scores in the questionnaires for self-reported depressive symptoms of male students (SMD: -0.22; 95% CI: -0.42 - -0.03). Conversely, no significant difference was detected for the OR of self-reported depressive symptom in the comparison between sex (OR: 1.11 - 95% CI: 0.77-1.62). Similarly, no significant difference was observed for the different school years regardless of the analytical strategy used.

Conclusion: It was concluded that female dental students presented more self-reported depressive symptoms, but no difference is demonstrated during the years of dental education.

Keywords: dental students; dentistry; depressive disorder; mental health.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Self Report
  • Students, Dental*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires