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Progress Made in Reducing Depression During Internship

Increases in sleep hours and use of mental health services, decrease in work hours occurred in parallel to decrease in depressive symptoms

TUESDAY, Nov. 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) — From 2007 to 2019, there was an increase in baseline depressive symptoms among first-year resident physicians but a decrease in the average change in depressive symptoms with internship, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Yu Fang, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined how the increase in depressive symptoms with residency has shifted over time in a repeated annual cohort study conducted among 16,965 first-year resident physicians who started training between 2007 and 2019.

The researchers found that from 2007 to 2019, there was an increase in baseline depressive symptoms (nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ-9] score, 2.3 to 2.9). Across cohorts, there was also an increase seen in the prevalence of baseline predictors of a greater increase in depressive symptoms with internship. Despite this finding, from 2007 to 2019, the average change in depressive symptoms with internship decreased 24.4 percent (change to PHQ-9 score, 4.1 to 3.0). This change was greater among women than men (4.7 to 3.3 versus 3.5 to 2.9) and among nonsurgical interns versus surgical interns (4.1 to 3.0 versus 4.0 to 3.2). Increases in sleep hours, quality of faculty feedback, and use of mental health services and a decrease in work hours were seen across cohorts, in parallel to the decrease in depressive symptoms change.

“These findings represent important progress in reducing the depression associated with residency training,” the authors write. “Despite this progress, depressive symptoms still increase substantially with internship for many trainees.”

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