The personality traits with depression and suicidal ideation among Thai medical students: a university-based multiregional study

BMC Psychol. 2024 Apr 23;12(1):223. doi: 10.1186/s40359-024-01707-8.


Background: The prevalence of depression in medical students was greater than in the general population. Knowing of predictive factors for depression among medical students is useful. The objectives of this study included the assessment of personality traits as well as the association between the personality traits and the presence of symptoms of depression, and suicidal ideation among medical students covering several regions of Thailand.

Methods: From April to July 2023, a cross-section study was conducted. The participants included first to sixth-year medical students studying at three Faculties of Medicine in Thailand; Prince of Songkla University; Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University; and Chiang Mai University. Using the online process, the questionnaires were composed of three sections; demographic data; the International Personality Item Pool-NEO (IPIP-NEO), Thai version; and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), Thai version. Demographics, personality traits, depression, and suicidal ideation were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results were presented as frequency, mean, and standard deviation (SD) or median and interquartile range (IQR). The association between independent variables and the presence of depression was identified using binary logistic regression analysis, and the association with suicidal ideation was identified using ordinal logistic regression analysis.

Results: The 868 medical students participated in this study. Most of them were female (63.5%), Buddhist (82.0%), and first-year medical students (31.8%). The mean age (SD) was 20.8 (2.2) years, and the mean cumulative Grade Point Average (SD) was 3.5 (0.4). They reported the median (IQR) score of PHQ-9 as 6.0 (3.0-9.0), 238 participants (27.4%) presented with depression, and 138 (15.9%) participants reported suicidal ideation. According to the IPIP-NEO, participants with depression or suicidal ideation had higher Neuroticism scores and lower Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness scores compared to those without such issues. An increase in the Neuroticism score was linked to higher odds of depression, while an increase in the Conscientiousness score was associated with lower odds of depression. Suicidal ideation significantly increased with higher Neuroticism scores and the presence of a psychiatric illness.

Conclusions: More than a quarter of Thai medical students reported depression. A higher Neuroticism and lower Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness scores related to depression. Therefore, medical schools may benefit from knowing medical students' personality traits, to identify coping mechanisms and predict those at a higher risk of developing depression in the future.

Keywords: Coping mechanisms; Depression; Medical student; Personality traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Depression* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Southeast Asian People
  • Students, Medical* / psychology
  • Students, Medical* / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thailand / epidemiology
  • Universities
  • Young Adult