Prevalence of Depressive Symptoms in Medical Students Following a Problem-Based Learning Curriculum

Heros Aureliano Antunes da Silva Maia Ana Carolina Silva Assunção Caroline Santos Silva Juliana Laranjeira Pereira dos Santos Carla Jamile Jabar Menezes José de Bessa JúniorAbout the authors



Depression is a heterogenous disorder of diverse etiology, progression and therapeutic response. Increasing incidence of depression in young adulthood has been reported. The purpose of this paper was to evaluate the prevalence of depressive symptoms among medical students at a university which adopts an active learning method and to investigate possible associations to sociodemographic variables.


Descriptive, cross-sectional study. An electronic questionnaire was applied to evaluate sociodemographic variables and depressive symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis were performed.


A slight male predominance (n=93, 53.7%) was found among 173 students, along with an average median age of 24 [22-26]. Depressive symptoms were identified in 46.2% of the students (n=80): 33.5% (n=58) with mild symptoms, 9.2% (n=16) moderate, and 3.4% (n=6) severe. Female gender (p=0.032) and dissatisfaction with the active learning method (p<0.001) were independently associated with depressive symptoms in a multivariate logistic regression analysis with the chance of suffering from depressive symptoms increasing 2 and 3.5 fold, respectively. Living with one’s parents, additional psychiatric diagnosis, and lack of regular physical exercise were associated with depressive symptoms only in univariate analysis.


The medical students presented a high prevalence rate of depressive symptons. Association between dissatisfaction with the active learning method and depressive symptoms may offer some insight regarding the pedagogical practices and deficiencies in the application of this method at the university in question. It is important to implement strategies that incorporate physical exercise into the pedagogical and curricular project to promote the mental and physical health of the students.

Problem-Based Learning; Depression; Medical Students; Medical Education; Mental Health

Associação Brasileira de Educação Médica SCN - QD 02 - BL D - Torre A - Salas 1021 e 1023 | Asa Norte, Brasília | DF | CEP: 70712-903, Tel: (61) 3024-9978 / 3024-8013, Fax: +55 21 2260-6662 - Brasília - DF - Brazil