Patient Care

Depression Common among Physicians in Training


Clinical question: What is the prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms in resident physicians?

Background: Depression in resident physicians can lead to poor-quality medical care, increased errors, and long-term morbidity. Prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms has varied in prior studies, and more data are needed to better understand the true prevalence.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Surgical and nonsurgical residency programs in North America, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa

Synopsis: Thirty-one cross-sectional studies (9,447 individuals) and 23 longitudinal studies (8,113 individuals) from January 1963 to September 2015 were included in this analysis, with the majority using self-reporting to identify residents with depression or depressive symptoms. Overall prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms was 28.8%, with a range of 20.9% to 43.2%, depending on the screening tool (95% CI, 25.3%–32.5%; P<0.001). There was an increased prevalence in depression or depressive symptoms as the calendar year progressed (slope=0.5% per calendar year increase; 95% CI, 0.03%–0.09%), with no difference in prevalence rates between surgical versus nonsurgical residents, U.S. versus elsewhere, cross-sectional versus longitudinal, or interns versus upper-level residents.

Because studies were heterogeneous with respect to the screening tools and resident population, the prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms cannot be precisely determined.

Bottom line: Prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms ranged from 20.9% to 43.2%, with pooled prevalence of 28.8%, and increased with time.

Citation: Mata DA, Ramos MA, Bansal N, et al. Prevalence of depression and depressive symptoms among resident physicians: a systematic review and met-analysis. JAMA. 2015;314(22):2373-2383.

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