An international report released on Tuesday revealed that one third of young doctors suffer from depression. According to the research, medical residents are more likely to suffer from depression than the general population.
The first years of residency and internship can be very hard for young doctors. It is a period which comes right after medical school – an intensive education program – and that is defined by intense training, few hours of sleep, long hours of intense care for patients and responsibility for their health and for their life.
The findings have been published in the American Medical Association Journal on December 8 and are based on an investigation of peer-reviewed studies from the last 50 years which were looking for symptoms of depression in over 17,500 medical residents.
Researchers have been able to establish that on average, 29 percent of young doctors suffer from depression or at least had shown symptoms of depression, with no significant difference between women and men or among different countries.
However, great differences are found when compared to the general population of non-doctors Americans. In 2013 the National Institute of Mental Health released a study which showed that almost 6.7 percent of adult citizens experienced at least one depressive episode during 2012.
The new study rings an alarm bell, showing that besides residents, their patients are also affected by their depression. Researchers link doctor’s depression with low quality care and also with increased likeliness of medical errors.
Unfortunately things are not yet getting better but on the contrary. Scientists found a slight increase in depression over the last half of the century. This means that medical residents are more depressed today than they were fifty years ago, in spite of the reforms implemented lately that aimed to improve the residents’ life and mental health.
Researchers blame the increasing rates of depression among young doctors on the very different medical practice we have today in comparison to a few decades ago. Hospitals have more protocols and doctors feel more pressure coming from online ratings.
More than that, there is a great difference between the practice they learn during the medical school and the reality from the hospitals.
Some researchers say that another factor is the lack of rewarding from the first few years of residency, when new doctors have to spend more time on the computer than actually working with the patients.
Authors of the study suggest as a solution the fundamental change of the medical training system to accommodate the life and the health conditions of young doctors.
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