According to a paper published in the new issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than one in four doctors in the early stages of their careers have signs of depression, and their patients – now and in the future – may suffer because of it.
The findings come from an investigation of 50 years’ worth of studies, published between January 1963 and September 2015, that looked for depression symptoms in more than 17,500 medical residents. Their analysis revealed that the percentage of residents with possible depression ranged from 20 to 43 percent, resulting in an average of 29% physicians-in-training with depression or depressive symptoms. By way of comparison, in 2013 the National Institute of Mental Health reported that about 6.7% of all U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode during the previous year.
According to Srijan Sen, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and a member of the University of Michigan’s Depression Center, depression obviously negatively impacts the doctors-in-training themselves, but it also affects patient care, as mental health issues are linked to medical errors. Indeed, it could interfere with attention and focus, the development of the doctor-patient relationship, and result in a resident physician less engaged or interested in a patient’s care – inevitably resulting in errors. The prevalence of depressive symptomatology and disease in physicians-in-training is a significant and important indication of a system in need of change.