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Medical student depression, anxiety and distress outside north america: A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Valerie Hope, Max Henderson

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-979
Number of pages17
JournalMedical Education
Issue number10
Early online date7 Nov 2014
Accepted/In press14 Oct 2014
E-pub ahead of print7 Nov 2014


  • fphys-05-00426

    fphys_05_00426.pdf, 916 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:23 Mar 2016

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    Licence:CC BY

King's Authors


Context North American medical students are more depressed and anxious than their peers. In the UK, the regulator now has responsibility for medical students, which may potentially increase scrutiny of their health. This may either help or hinder medical students in accessing appropriate care. The prevalences of anxiety, depression and psychological distress in medical students outside North America are not clear. A better understanding of the prevalence of, risk factors for and results of psychological distress will guide the configuration of support services, increasingly available for doctors, for medical students too. Objectives The aim of this study was to examine the prevalences of depression, anxiety and psychological distress in students in medical schools in the UK, Europe and elsewhere in the English-speaking world outside North America. Methods A systematic review was conducted using search terms encompassing psychological distress amongst medical students. OvidSP was used to search the following databases: Ovid MEDLINE (R) from 1948 to October 2013; PsycINFO from 1806 to October 2013, and EMBASE from 1980 to October 2013. Results were restricted to medical schools in Europe and the English-speaking world outside North America, and were evaluated against a set of inclusion criteria including the use of validated assessment tools. Results The searches identified 29 eligible studies. Prevalences of 7.7-65.5% for anxiety, 6.0-66.5% for depression and 12.2-96.7% for psychological distress were recorded. The wide range of results reflects the variable quality of the studies. Almost all were crosssectional and many did not mention ethical approval. Better-quality studies found lower prevalences. There was little information on the causes or consequences of depression or anxiety. Conclusions Prevalences of psychological distress amongst medical students outside North America are substantial. Future research should move on from simple crosssectional studies to better-quality longitudinal work which can identify both predictors for and outcomes of poor mental health in medical students.

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