Veterinary students are more likely to struggle with depression than human medicine students, undergraduate students and the general population, according to several recent studies from Kansas State University researchers.
Mac Hafen, therapist and clinical instructor in K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, and researchers from K-State, the University of Nebraska and East Carolina University, examined depression and anxiety among veterinary medical students.
“We are hoping to predict what contributes to depression levels so that we can intervene and make things run a little bit more smoothly for students themselves,” Hafen said.
Once a semester for the past five years, the researchers surveyed veterinary students in various stages of academic study. The survey helped uncover a rate of depression occurrence and understand how it related to the amount of stress veterinary students experience during their four years of study.
During the first year of veterinary school, 32 percent of the veterinary medicine students surveyed showed symptoms of depression compared to 23 percent of human medicine students who showed symptoms above the clinical cutoff, as evidenced by other studies.
The researchers discovered that veterinary students experience higher depression rates as early as the first semester of their first year of study. Their depression rates appear to increase even more during the second and third year of school. During the fourth year, depression rates drop down to first-year levels.
The research team's studies found several factors connected with higher depression occurrence, including homesickness; uncertainty about academic expectations; a feeling of not belonging and perceived physical health.