Mental health issues amongst medical students in Asia: a systematic review [2000–2015]

Amit Nirmal Cuttilan, Andrew Arjun Sayampanathan, Roger Chun-Man Ho


Background: Studies have shown that the stress experienced by medical students is far greater than that experienced by other university students. In this study, we aim to understand the consequent mental health issues that are experienced by medical students, particularly in Asia, via a systematic review of the current literature.
Methods: Initial searches on MEDLINE, Embase and SpringerLink came up with a total of 1,033 unique articles. Studies not focusing on medical students alone, not mentioning mental health issues or not containing prevalence values were excluded.
Results: We included 14 articles in our analysis. ADs had a prevalence of 7.04% (100/1,420). Depression was prevalent in 11.0% (1,115/10,147) of students. A total of 12.9% (54/420) and 12.9% (41/319) of male and female medical students respectively were screened for depression. Preclinical students were also 1.63 times more likely to be depressed compared to clinical students, with 98.0% (48/49) pre-clinical students having screened for depression, compared to 60% (27/45) clinical students. Home staying medical students are 1.33 times more likely to be depressed compared to hostel-stayers, with 12.1% (29/239) of home stayers being depressed compared to 9.2% (37/402) of hostel stayers.
Conclusions: We found that mental health issues affect a significant proportion of medical students and they are more prevalent in certain subpopulations of medical students. Our data revealed that preclinical and home staying students can be more susceptible to depression. More research should be done regarding this issue. With such information, it is hoped that appropriate interventions can be designed to improve the mental health of medical students.