Depression, burnout strongly impact medical students

October 5, 2010

Two studies related to medical student depression and burnout suggest, respectively, that depressed students are more likely to endorse depression stigma attitudes than are nondepressed students, and that students with burnout are more likely than students without burnout to engage in unprofessional conduct, HealthDay News reports.

Ann Arbor, Mich. - Two studies related to medical student depression and burnout suggest, respectively, that depressed students are more likely to endorse depression stigma attitudes than are nondepressed students, and that students with burnout are more likely than students without burnout to engage in unprofessional conduct, HealthDay News reports.

Both studies appear in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the first study, University of Michigan researchers analyzed 505 survey responses from medical students in an effort to characterize the perceptions of stigma associated with depression among depressed and nondepressed students. They found that students with depression endorsed depression stigma attitudes more frequently than nondepressed students, and that perceptions of stigma varied by sex and class year.

In the second study, investigators at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., gathered responses from 2,682 medical students on burnout, depression, quality of life, engaging in unprofessional conduct, understanding of appropriate relationships with industry, and attitudes about physicians’ responsibilities to society.

This study found that 52.8 percent said they had burnout, and that while few endorsed dishonest academic conduct, up to 43 percent endorsed unprofessional behavior related to patient care. Students with burnout were more likely to have engaged in an unprofessional behavior and were less likely to hold altruistic views about a physician’s social responsibility than those without burnout.

“The relationship between burnout and medical students’ opinions about physicians’ responsibility to society raises larger questions for physicians in general,” the researchers wrote. “If this association is also true in practicing physicians, it implies that burnout may color physicians’ views on their responsibility to promote the public health, advocate for patients and reduce barriers to equitable healthcare.”