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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 35  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 41-47

Medical student anxiety and depression in the COVID-19 Era: Unique needs of underrepresented students

1 Department of Medical Education, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Los Angeles, CA, USA
2 Department of Internal Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
3 Department of Medical Education, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Stephanie K Zia
1975 Zonal Ave, KAM 105, Los Angeles, CA. 90089
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.efh_112_22

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant morbidity, mortality, and mental health consequences. Few studies have examined the mental toll of COVID-19 on United States (US) medical students, who experience greater rates of depression and anxiety than the general population. Students who identify as underrepresented in medicine (URM) may experience even greater mental health adversities than non-URM peers. This study examines COVID-19's impact on preclinical medical student anxiety and depression and unique challenges disproportionately affecting URM students during the initial phase of the pandemic. Methods: Medical students at four US institutions completed an anonymous survey including the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaires for depression and anxiety. Participants provided information on demographics, past mental health difficulties, and concerns during the pandemic. Chi-square and Mann–Whitney U tests were performed using SPSS. Results: During the initial phase of the pandemic, URMs were 3.71 times more likely to be in the at-risk category on GAD-7 than non-URM peers. Before COVID-19, there was no significant difference between self-reported feelings or diagnoses of anxiety between groups. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were significant differences in feelings of increased anxiety between URM (Mdn = 76) and non-URM (Mdn = 49) students, U = 702.5, P < 0.001, feelings of increased sadness between URM (Mdn = 49) and non-URM (Mdn = 34) students, U = 1036.5, P = 0.042, concern for new financial difficulty between URM (Mdn = 50) and non-URM students (Mdn = 7), U = 950.5, P = 0.012, and concern about lack of mental health support from their academic institution between URM (Mdn = 18) and non-URM students (Mdn = 9), U = 1083, P = 0.036 (one-tailed). Discussion: Large-scale crises such as COVID-19 may exacerbate mental health disparities between URM and non-URM students. Medical schools should consider increasing financial and mental health support for URM students in response to these significant adverse events.

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