Stress and Depression in Medical Students

December 09, 2010

Note: Today’s guest blogger is Brian Farmer, National Account Executive for the Med Plus Advantage program.

Stress and Depression in Medical Students

Our resident blogger, Chris Burke, handed over the reigns to  Physicians In Focus to me this week. I'd like to highlight a conference the Med Plus Advantage team recently attended. 

The  AAMC’s 2010 Annual Meeting – Shaping the Physicians of the Future in Washington DC provides in-depth information about the issues students face as they transition from school to the professional world. One of the hot topics discussed at the conference, and one that merits serious attention, is the prevalence of stress and depression among medical students and residents.

Stress of Medical School

The Med Plus Advantage program, put in place by medical schools or resident programs, provides student and resident group long-term disability income, term life, and accidental death and dismemberment coverage.

The years spent in medical residency programs are some of the most grueling in the physician career cycle. The learning curve is steep. The hours are demanding. It is challenging to balance life and work.

In fact, nearly 50% of all disability claims filed through the MPA program this past year were stress related.

Depression in Medical Students

A recent study published by the JAMA, Journal of the America Medical Association (abstract only) at the University of Michigan Medical School brought to light very concerning statistics about depression in medical students.

The prevalence of moderate to severe depression is 14.3% among the medical students surveyed. This rate of depression is significantly higher compared to the general population.

Thirty percent of first- and second-year medical students experiencing depression cited stigma as a deterrent to the use of mental health services in addition to lack of confidentiality and documentation in academic records.

Emotional Health for Medical Students

The AAMC Conference and the MPA program have identified the need to increase availability of resources for treatment.

Given the projected influx of medical students in the upcoming years, it is imperative to lower the obstacles that medical students face in asking for help. It demands on-going dialogue with students about the issues they face on a daily basis, both personal and professional. Resources and assistance needs to be readily available throughout the curriculum. If medical schools confidentially offer stress and wellness services, it will positively impact students and residents.

The MPA program is a proud sponsor of Radio Rounds, a radio show hosted and produced by medical students at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.  In January 2011, Radio Rounds will broadcast a two part series discussing this topic with some of the doctors associated with the studies mentioned earlier in this blog as well as  the impact of programs such as Med Plus Advantage’s Stress and Wellness program.  Radio Rounds is also available as a podcast in the iTunes store.


Understanding Depression and Distress Among Medical Students
Laura Weiss Roberts
JAMA. 2010;304(11):1231-1233 (doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1347) Depression, Stigma, and Suicidal Ideation in Medical Students
Thomas L. Schwenk; Lindsay Davis; Leslie A. Wimsatt
JAMA. 2010;304(11):1181-1190 (doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1300)

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