Residents' spiritual negativity is linked to depression

Housestaff members who feel abandoned by God are more likely to be clinically depressed.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted May 1, 2006

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Medical residents' demanding training already makes them prime candidates for depression, and residents who feel disconnected from God and unhappy with religious institutions are even more likely to experience depression, according to a small study from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital medical centers.

"Those feeling less of a sense of meaning in life, less connectedness with an other worldly power were at a greater risk of depressive symptomology," said Michael Yi, MD, the study's lead author and assistant professor in clinical medicine and clinical pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Dr. Yi and his co-authors found that 25% of the primary care residents they studied had significant symptoms of depression. Family medicine residents were the least likely to experience depression, while those in the combined internal medicine/pediatrics program were the most likely.

The authors collected data from 227 UC residents in pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine and internal medicine/pediatrics. Their findings appeared in the Ambulatory Pediatrics March issue.

In examining characteristics linked to depression symptoms, researchers found that residents were more likely to have significant symptoms of depression if they used negative religious coping, such as expressing spiritual discontent or spiritual abandonment; reporting poorer spiritual well-being or seeking greater levels of spiritual support from clergy or members of the congregation. The relationship between seeking spiritual support and depression may reflect individuals who are at greater risk for mood problems, the authors said, or those who had been experiencing depression and were seeking spiritual support to cope.

The authors suggest that interventions to help minimize negative religious coping and to improve residents' spiritual well-being may decrease the risk of depression.

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External links

"Religion, Spirituality and Depressive Symptoms in Primary Care House Officers," abstract, Ambulatory Pediatrics, March (link)

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