Race, ethnicity, and medical student well-being in the United States

Academic Article


  • Background: Little is known about the training experience of minority medical students. We explore differences in the prevalence of burnout, depressive symptoms, and quality of life (QOL) among minority and nonminority medical students as well as the role race/ethnicity plays in students' experiences. Methods: Medical students (N = 3080) at 5 medical schools were surveyed in 2006 using validated instruments to assess burnout, depression, and QOL. Students were also asked about the impact of race/ethnicity on their training experience. Results: The response rate was 55%. Nearly half of students reported burnout (47%) and depressive symptoms (49%). Mental QOL scores were lower among students than among the age-matched general population (43.1 vs 47.2; P < .001). Prevalence of depressive symptoms was similar regardless of minority status, but more nonminority students had burnout (39% vs 33%; P < .03). Minority students were more likely to report that their race/ethnicity had adversely affected their medical school experience (11% vs 2%; P < .001) and cited racial discrimination, racial prejudice, feelings of isolation, and different cultural expectations as causes. Minority students reporting such experiences were more likely to have burnout, depressive symptoms, and low mental QOL scores than were minority students without such experiences (all P < .05). Conclusions: Symptoms of distress are prevalent among medical students. While minorities appear to be at lower risk for burnout than nonminority students, race does contribute to the distress minority students do experience. Additional studies are needed to define the causes of these perceptions and to improve the learning climate for all students. ©2007 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 8299437
  • Author List

  • Dyrbye LN; Thomas MR; Eacker A; Harper W; Massie FS; Power DV; Huschka M; Novotny PJ; Sloan JA; Shanafelt TD
  • Start Page

  • 2103
  • End Page

  • 2109
  • Volume

  • 167
  • Issue

  • 19