A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 29% of medical residents suffer from depression, which is a significantly high number when compared to the 8% of the general public that suffers from depression. The meta-analysis study, conducted by Dr. Douglas Mata, reviewed a total of 54 studies from 1963 to 2015. The analysis consisted of over 17,000 residents and relied mostly on self-reports. Additionally, Dr. Mata found that depression among residents had not only increased since 1963, but also increases throughout a physician’s residency. By tracing the mental health before and during the doctors’ residencies, the study found that the symptoms of depression in the residents being tracked increased by 15%. Dr. Mata, who is a resident himself, believes that the demanding hours play a significant role on residents’ mental health. He explained that many residents do not even have time to go grocery shopping.
However, there is no conclusive finding that determines the source of the residents’ high depression rates. The JAMA article includes an editorial by Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk, who speculates on the probable causes for the depression. Dr. Schwenk states that the main causes of depression among residents include the need to reconcile old-school training methods with modern technology, the lack of mental health care for residents, and the long hours and sleep deprivation. The cap on resident work hours, as is established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, is currently set at 80 hours per week. Due to these long hours, many residents are also socially isolated. In the United States, 400 doctors die of suicide every year. To combat this problem, Dr. Schwenk proposes a change to the work environment, such as providing ways for medical residents to de-stress from the traumatic life or death events they often endure.