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Are medical undergraduates more vulnerable than their non-medical peers to develop depressive symptoms?

Author:

Bilesha Perera

Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Galle, LK
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Abstract

Introduction: Psychological problems pose a significant threat to health and well-being of medical undergraduates in many countries. Less is known about psychological health issues of medical undergraduates in Sri Lanka. This study assesses and compares the prevalence of depressive symptoms between first year medical and non-medical undergraduates in a southern university in Sri Lanka. In addition, the predictors of depressive symptoms in this target population were explored.

Methods: A self-report, anonymous questionnaire that contained the Center for Epidemiological Studies- Depression Scale (CES-D) was administered to a sample of 392 first year undergraduates from the faculties of Agriculture, Medicine, Business Administration and Science.

Results: The mean score of the CES-D scale was 21.2 (SD = 11.0), higher when compared to similar studies conducted in other countries. About 76% of medical and 60% of non-medical undergraduates reported elevated depressive symptoms (p <.01). Sedentary and sexually inactive life styles and poverty were positively associated with elevated depressive symptoms in this target population.

Conclusions: Depressive symptoms appear to be more prevalent among first year medical students when compared to their non-medical peers. Physically and socially active lifestyles may reduce the chances of developing depressive symptoms in undergraduates. More research is needed to understand the behavioral and social factors associated with these elevated levels of distress and the behaviors and other strategies employed by these undergraduates to manage it. SD

Key words: Depressive symptoms, Behavior, Undergraduates, Sri Lanka

DOI: 10.4038/gmj.v16i1.2901

Galle Medical Journal, Vol 16: No. 1, March 2011 pp.1-5

How to Cite: Perera, B., (2011). Are medical undergraduates more vulnerable than their non-medical peers to develop depressive symptoms?. Galle Medical Journal. 16(1), pp.1–5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/gmj.v16i1.2901
Published on 29 Mar 2011.
Peer Reviewed

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