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The inability to cope successfully with the enormous stress of medical education may lead to a cascade of consequences at both a personal and professional level. The present study examined the short-term effects of an 8-week meditation-based stress reduction intervention on premedical and medical students using a well-controlled statistical design. Findings indicate that participation in the intervention can effectively (1) reduce self-reported state and trait anxiety, (2) reduce reports of overall psychological distress including depression, (3) increase scores on overall empathy levels, and (4) increase scores on a measure of spiritual experiences assessed at termination of intervention. These results (5) replicated in the wait-list control group, (6) held across different experiments, and (7) were observed during the exam period. Future research should address potential long-term effects of mindfulness training for medical and premedical students.

Background: Medical students confront significant academic, psychosocial, and existential stressors throughout their training. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an educational intervention designed to improve coping skills and reduce emotional distress. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of the MBSR intervention in a prospective, nonrandomized, cohort-controlled study. Methods: Second-year students (n = 140) elected to participate in a 10-week MBSR seminar. Controls (n = 162) participated in a didactic seminar on complementary medicine. Profile of Mood States (POMS) was administered preintervention and postintervention. Results: Baseline total mood disturbance (TMD) was greater in the MBSR group compared with controls (38.7 ±33.3 vs. 28.0 ±31.2; p <. 01). Despite this initial difference, the MBSR group scored significantly lower in TMD at the completion of the intervention period (31.8 ±33.8 vs. 38.6 ±32.8; p < . 05). Significant effects were also observed on Tension-Anxiety, Confusion-Bewilderment, Fatigue-Inertia, and Vigor-Activity subscales. Conclusion: MBSR may be an effective stress management intervention for medical students.

Purpose: To systematically review articles reporting on depression, anxiety, and burnout among U.S. and Canadian medical students. Method: Medline and PubMed were searched to identify peer-reviewed English-language studies published between January 1980 and May 2005 reporting on depression, anxiety, and burnout among U.S. and Canadian medical students. Searches used combinations of the Medical Subject Heading terms medical student and depression, depressive disorder major, depressive disorder, professional burnout, mental health, depersonalization, distress, anxiety, or emotional exhaustion. Reference lists of retrieved articles were inspected to identify relevant additional articles. Demographic information, instruments used, prevalence data on student distress, and statistically significant associations were abstracted. Results: The search identified 40 articles on medical student psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, burnout, and related mental health problems) that met the authors' criteria. No studies of burnout among medical students were identified. The studies suggest a high prevalence of depression and anxiety among medical students, with levels of overall psychological distress consistently higher than in the general population and age-matched peers by the later years of training. Overall, the studies suggest psychological distress may be higher among female students. Limited data were available regarding the causes of student distress and its impact on academic performance, dropout rates, and professional development. Conclusions: Medical school is a time of significant psychological distress for physicians-in-training. Currently available information is insufficient to draw firm conclusions on the causes and consequences of student distress. Large, prospective, multicenter studies are needed to identify personal and training-related features that influence depression, anxiety, and burnout among students and explore relationships between distress and competency.