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Prevalence and incidence of mental health problems among Dutch medical students and the study-related and personal risk factors: a longitudinal study

  • Jorien M. Borst , Monique H.W. Frings-Dresen and Judith K. Sluiter EMAIL logo



A high prevalence of mental health problems (i.e. depression and/or anxiety) has been found in medical students in comparison with the general population. Therefore, the objective was first to study the prevalence and 1-year incidence of symptoms of depression, anxiety and any mental health problems among Dutch medical students and, second, to study which study-related and personal factors present a risk of these mental health problems.


A 1-year prospective longitudinal study was performed among medical students of two medical faculties in the Netherlands (n=951). Health problems and study-related and personal factors were measured with an online questionnaire. Mental health problems were assessed by depression and/or anxiety symptoms (BSI-DEP and BSI-ANG). Univariate and multivariate hierarchical logistic regression analyses were performed to examine which of the study-related and personal factors predict mental health problems.


At follow-up, 36%, 28% and 48% of the medical students reported symptoms of depression, anxiety and mental health problems, respectively. The incidence between 2010 and 2011 for depression was 20%, 17% for anxiety and 25% for mental health problems. Students who are worried about their own health during medical education are at an increased risk of future mental health problems (OR 2.0 [1.3–2.9], p=0.00). Excessive drinking behavior is a protective factor in this study (OR 0.7 [0.5–0.9], p=0.02).


This study shows that only two out of nine factors are significantly associated with mental health problems among Dutch medical students, one risk factor and one protective factor.


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Received: 2015-3-17
Accepted: 2015-5-6
Published Online: 2015-8-1
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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