Several Factors Tied to Higher Depression Risk in Internship

Genetic, individual and internship characteristics may raise risk in medical interns
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- Several individual, internship and genetic factors are associated with the marked increase in depressive symptoms experienced by medical interns, according to research published in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Srijan Sen, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of 740 interns entering residency programs to examine the association between demographic, psychological and residency program factors and depression, and, using internship as a model, to study the effects of the genetic polymorphism 5-HTTLPR.

Assessing interns for depression before and at three-month intervals during internship using the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire, the researchers found mean depression scores increased from 2.4 before to 6.4 during internship. The proportion of interns meeting the criteria for depression skyrocketed from 3.9 to 25.7 percent. A host of factors measured at baseline -- including female sex, U.S. medical education, history of major depression and difficult early family environment -- and during internship -- increased work hours, stress-causing life events and perceived medical errors -- were associated with an increased inclination toward depression during internship. In addition, interns with one or more copies of a 5-HTTLPR allele reported a larger increase in depressive symptoms during internship.

"There is a marked increase in depressive symptoms during medical internship. Specific individual, internship, and genetic factors are associated with the increase in depressive symptoms," the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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