Why Are 29% Of Medical Residents Depressed?

Dec 30, 2015

Credit Dr. Farouk / creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Nearly 29 percent of medical residents are depressed compared to 16 percent of the general population. That startling finding was recently released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To better understand why our physicians-in-training are suffering, we turn to our News Director Michelle Bliss and her guest Dr. Thomas Schwenk. He heads the University of Nevada School of Medicine and wrote an editorial for JAMA on this issue.

According to Schwenk, medical residents are in a particularly vulnerable position because they're thrown into overwhelming situations with little guidance. In the past, senior physicians would have offered them more mentorship and strategies for coping with such a high-demand job.

"The system is just so stressed; it's so tightly wound," Schwenk explains. "We have incredible clinical productivity pressures, incredible pressures for patients to move quickly through the system."

Schwenk says there's also a stigma placed on medical students who reach out for mental healthcare, so their depression can be difficult to treat. Without more help available, the profession is starting to lose out on committed doctors.

"What's worrisome, I think, is that we do see some dissatisfaction. We see some residents who are changing careers or dropping out of medicine."