Mental Well-Being in First Year Medical Students: A Comparison by Race and Gender: A Report from the Medical Student CHANGE Study

Rachel R. Hardeman, Julia M. Przedworski, Sara E. Burke, Diana J. Burgess, Sean M. Phelan, John F. Dovidio, Dave Nelson, Todd Rockwood, Michelle van Ryn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: In this study, authors sought to characterize race and gender disparities in mental health in a national sample of first year medical students early in their medical school experience.

METHOD: This study used cross-sectional baseline data of Medical Student CHANGES, a large national longitudinal study of a cohort of medical students surveyed in the winter of 2010. Authors ascertained respondents via the American Association of Medical Colleges questionnaire, a third-party vendor-compiled list, and referral sampling.

RESULTS: A total of 4732 first year medical students completed the baseline survey; of these, 301 were African American and 2890 were White. Compared to White students and after adjusting for relevant covariates, African American students had a greater risk of being classified as having depressive (relative risk (RR)=1.59 [95 % confidence interval, 1.37-2.40]) and anxiety symptoms (RR=1.66 [1.08-2.71]). Women also had a greater risk of being classified as having depressive (RR=1.36 [1.07-1.63]) and anxiety symptoms (RR-1.95 [1.39-2.84]).

CONCLUSIONS: At the start of their first year of medical school, African American and female medical students were at a higher risk for depressive symptoms and anxiety than their White and male counterparts, respectively. The findings of this study have practical implications as poor mental and overall health inhibit learning and success in medical school, and physician distress negatively affects quality of clinical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gender
  • Medical students
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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