Burnout and depression in medical students: Relations with avoidance and disengagement

Emily B. Kroska, Chadi Calarge, Michael W. O'Hara, Emira Deumic, & Lillian Dindo



Depression and burnout are prevalent among medical students and significantly impact functioning and quality of life. Thus, gaining a greater understanding of coping strategies that relate to depression and burnout can enhance the ability of medical schools to improve psychological wellbeing. The current study assesses how avoidance and decreased engagement in values-based behavior, key processes targeted in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, relate to depression and burnout in medical students. Method: A survey was sent to second-, third-, and fourth-year medical students at a large Midwestern university. Respondents (N = 241) completed self-report measures of depression, burnout (encompassing emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment), avoidance, and values-based behavior. Associations between variables were examined using bivariate correlations and regression analyses.

Nearly 25% of the sample was experiencing clinically significant depressive symptoms and 51% experiencing burnout. Greater avoidance and lower engagement in values-based behavior were associated with greater depressive symptoms, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. In contrast, lower avoidance and higher values-based behavior were associated with greater personal accomplishment.

Burnout and depression were associated with avoidance and decreased engagement in values-based behavior. Interventions aimed at targeting these difficulties and maladaptive coping strategies may offer an opportunity to enhance medical student well-being and mental health.

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