Med Students More Likely to Have Alcohol Dependency

(Image: Flickr, Fabio, Creative Commons)

(Image: Flickr, Fabio, Creative Commons)

According to a recently released study, medical students are more likely to have drinking problems compared to their peers who did not attend medical school, especially those who are young, unmarried, and hold higher amounts of debt.

Researchers for the Mayo Clinic looked at burnout rates among 12,500 medical students.  Of the 4,000 students who responded to the survey, 1,400 were found to have developed clinical alcohol dependence or abuse.  Study results found 30% of medical students to have a problem with consuming alcohol.

Published online in the Academic Medicine journal, the study states that alcohol abuse is common among younger students who carry a heavier debt load.  Co-author Eric Jackson, a medical student at Mayo Medical School, suggests that wellness programs could help solve these issues.

“In our paper we recommend wellness curricula for medical schools, identifying and remediating factors within the learning environment contributing to stress, and removal of barriers to mental health services,” said Eric Jackson, a Mayo Medical School student and the study’s first author.

Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota notes that the findings suggest cause for concern, as medical students are poised to be the future of medicine.  She said it is in the interest of the American people to keep these students in particular away from alcohol.

“Our findings clearly show there is reason for concern,” said study senior author Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “We recommend institutions pursue a multifaceted solution to address related issues with burnout, the cost of medical education and alcohol abuse,” she said in a Mayo news release.

According to the study, medical students were twice as likely to have alcohol-related problems than surgeons, physicians, and the general public.

Researchers also found a correlation between such burnout factors as depersonalization and emotional weariness and drinking among medical students.  Other factors include the amount of debt, being younger than most other students in medical school, or being unmarried or single.  No statistical differences were found concerning gender or medical school year, reports Katherine Derla for Tech Times.

In order to find a solution to the issue, the authors suggest discovering which factor plays the largest role when it comes to these students abusing alcohol.  One idea concerns the rising cost of medical school.  According to the researchers, the cost of going to such a school increased by 209% since 1995 for private colleges and 286% for public institutions.  Medical students who graduated just two years ago had an average of $180,000 in debt, reports Daniel Contreras for Pulse Headlines.

The authors did suggest that medical schools focus more on removing barriers that cause students to not seek out mental health services when necessary, writes David Kellen for Lighthouse News Daily.

A separate study found that student loans are not only an issue for students or young professionals.  Results of that study determined a high number of those age 65 or older who still have unpaid college debt.