Depression in doctors; an unfortunate reality

Depression affects an estimated 12% of males and up to 19.5% of females in the medical field, making it as prevalent as in the general population. [1, 2] Furthermore  15–30% of medical students and residents screened positive for depressive symptoms. [3, 4, 5]. In this article, we’ll discuss the key findings of the report by Medscape on depression and suicide in doctors.

Types of depression in physicians

According to the report about a fifth of physicians overall said that they were depressed. Of the doctors that were depressed, 24% said that they were clinically depressed and 64% said they had colloquial depression.

Quotes from doctors about their depression

“I am constantly depressed and looking for a way out”, Neurologist.

“I have little joy in performing the job that I believe I was born to do. The lack of professional satisfaction spills over into my personal life. Now not only am I tired of work – I’m tired of life.” – Emergency physician.

The link between burnout and depression

According to Dr. Peter Yellowlees (a renowned expert on telepsychiatry and physician wellbeing) whilst doctors’ burnout is caused by occupational stress, it “can be a vulnerability factor that leads to depression, and depression can make an individual more likely to suffer burnout.” In other words, depression and burnout can both be casually related to each other.

The effect of depression on patient relationships

Of the doctors that were suffering from depression, 53% said that their depression did not affect their interaction with patients. However 34% of doctors said that they were exasperated with patients, 14% said that they express their frustration in front of patients, and 11% said that they make errors that they don’t ordinarily make. This, therefore, highlights the importance of doctors’ mental health with regard to the quality of patient care.

How doctors keep up with their mental health

As displayed in the graph spending time with family members, exercising, and doing enjoyable activities help doctors the most with keeping up with their mental health. Getting enough sleep helped 49% of doctors and eating healthy helped 44% of them. 9% of physicians reported that therapy was instrumental in managing their mental health.

Can you become a doctor with depression?

Having depression or other mental health problems does not disqualify you from being a doctor. It’s important that medical students seek help early to become healthy and equip themselves with the tools that they need to handle stressful situations and burnout.

Symptoms of depression

  • persistent depressed mood
  • loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • sleep problems
  • chronic guilt or worthlessness
  • low motivation to do tasks
  • suicidal thoughts
  • changes in appetite and body weight


1: https://read.qxmd.com/read/10588401/self-reported-depression-and-suicide-attempts-among-u-s-women-physicians

2: https://read.qxmd.com/read/15569903/suicide-rates-among-physicians-a-quantitative-and-gender-assessment-meta-analysis

3: https://read.qxmd.com/read/19174678/depressive-symptoms-in-medical-students-and-residents-a-multischool-study

4: https://read.qxmd.com/read/16565188/systematic-review-of-depression-anxiety-and-other-indicators-of-psychological-distress-among-u-s-and-canadian-medical-students

5: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2474410

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