Depression symptoms increase during residency
■ Predictors of depression, including neuroticism, life stresses and the number of hours worked, were all found to increase during the first year of medical training.
Fewer than 4% of doctors in training have major depression when they enter residency. But about 25% do by the end of the first year.
Stressful life events, work hours and genetic predisposition were among the factors associated with depressive symptoms among residents, according to a study published online April 5 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Lead study author Srijan Sen, MD, PhD, and other researchers surveyed 740 doctors entering residency programs at 13 U.S. hospitals in 2007 and 2008.
Before beginning their residencies, participants reported their symptoms of depression in an online survey. Follow-up surveys were conducted four times over 12 months to gauge depression, work hours, perceived medical errors and life stresses. Depressive symptoms were measured during each assessment using the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire.
Researchers found that 3.9% of participants met PHQ-9 criteria for major depression before they entered their residencies. By the 12th month, about one in four met the criteria (link).
"It's a really serious matter. ...We have to find ways to reduce the chances of developing depression and treating it once it comes on," said Dr. Sen, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School. "Residency programs should look for this in their interns. [Identifying depression] can improve interns' health, and it could potentially help the health of the patients they're treating."
Future studies should examine how the rate of depression changes as physicians progress through their careers, Dr. Sen said.