Depression and Suicidal Behavior in Medical Students: A Systematic Review
Ricardo Moutinho Coentre,
Maria Luisa Figueira.
Current findings indicate that depression and suicidal ideation are prevalent in medical
students. The main aim was to systematically review articles related to depression and suicidal
behavior among medical students. Using MEDLINE a systematic review was made, combining the
keywords “depression”, “suicide”, “suicidal ideation”, “suicidal behavior” and “AND medical
students”. English and Portuguese peer-reviewed original articles published between January 2005
and June 2011 were included. From the 114 identified by systematic search, 37 articles were found
after excluding studies where medical students´ reaction to patient suicide or depression was studied,
studies not using a standardized depression instrument and students from other than conventional
medical schools. Prevalence of depression in medical students ranged from 2.9% to 38.2%, suicidal ideation from 4.4% to
23.1% and suicidal attempts from 0.0% to 6.4%. Studies suggest that prevalence of depression is higher in female medical
students, younger students and lower years in medical schools. Mixed results were found about the relationship between
depression and ethnicity. Regarding suicidal behavior there were mixed results in the relationship of gender and year of
medical school. No relationship was found between suicidal behavior and age, and suicidal ideation and race. Increasing
awareness about the prevalence of depression, suicidal behavior and associated factors among medical students is needed.
Psychoeducation on early recognition about depression and suicidal behavior and available treatment resources for
students, and counteracting the stigma associated with these conditions, could prevent hazardous consequences, by
promoting preventive programs and an easier and confidential access to psychiatric treatment.
Keywords: Depression, medical students, prevention, suicidal attempts, suicidal ideation and treatment.
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