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More than a quarter of medical students are likely depressed, meta-analysis finds

The analysis, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is the largest of its kind examining depression and suicidal ideation in medical students.

A new meta-analysis has found that 27% of medical students have clinical depression or symptoms of it. The depression rate of similarly aged adults in the U.S. general population is roughly 7-10%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The analysis also found that 11% of students had suicidal thoughts, and just under 16% of medical students with depression sought psychiatric help for the illness.

The analysis, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, is the largest of its kind examining medical student depression, according to The Boston Globe. Its sources included 167 cross-sectional studies and 16 longitudinal studies from 43 countries.

“I can tell you people are struggling with this. It is an issue,” Lisa Rotenstein, a medical student who worked on the analysis, told The Boston Globe.

To reduce medical student depression, the analysis’ authors encourage medical schools to consider adopting pass-fail grading for courses, offering “flipped classroom” courses in which students work collaboratively in groups to solve problems, and exploring other ways to ease students’ workloads and the pressure they face. They also urge further research on the subject.

“Because of the high prevalence of depressive and suicidal symptomatology in medical students, there is a need for additional studies to identify the root causes of emotional distress in this population,” they wrote in the analysis.

To learn more, read the analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine and read coverage of it in The Boston Globe.

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