Relationship Between Depression and Stress Coping Ability Among Residents in Japan: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study

Makoto Ito, Emiko Seo, Takami Maeno, Ryoko Ogawa, Tetsuhiro Maeno


Background: Depression among medical residents is a critical issue. The early detection of depression and provision of appropriate care is necessary for fostering healthy conditions during clinical training. To investigate whether Sense of Coherence (SOC), an indicator of stress coping ability, could be a predictor of depression 2 years after the start of clinical training, we conducted a national longitudinal study.

Methods: We distributed self-administered questionnaires to residents in 251 postgraduate educational hospitals just before the start of their clinical training. The questionnaire contained the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale (a screening tool for depression), the SOC scale, and demographic factors. After 2 years, we distributed questionnaires to residents who responded to the first survey. The second questionnaire contained the CES-D scale and questions about working conditions. We categorized respondents into three groups according to their SOC score and analyzed the relationship between SOC groups (low, middle, high) and depressive symptoms on the follow-up survey.

Results: In total, 1,738 of 2,935 residents (59.2%) responded to the first survey. Of these, 1,169 residents (67.3%) also responded to the follow-up survey. A total of 169 residents were excluded because they screened positive for depressive symptoms at the time of the first survey. On the follow-up survey, 187 residents (19.5%) had new-onset depressive symptoms: 33.3% in the low SOC group, 18.2% in the middle SOC group, and 11.4% in the high SOC group (P < 0.01). Compared with the high SOC group, the odds ratio for new-onset depressive symptoms in the low SOC group was 2.04 (95% confidence interval, 1.02 - 4.05) after adjusting for demographic factors, baseline CES-D score, and mean working time.

Conclusions: SOC score is significantly associated with future depressive symptoms among residents after 2 years. Residents in the low SOC group had a 2-fold higher risk of future depressive symptoms than those in the high SOC group. The SOC scale might be a useful predictor of future depression and allow for the provision of appropriate support to residents during clinical training.

J Clin Med Res. 2018;10(9):715-721


Depression; Sense of Coherence; Residents; Mental health; Working hours; Postgraduate training

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