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.

By — Posted April 29, 2010

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

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.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story