Residency is often one of the most difficult times of a doctor’s career – the hours, the workload and the expectations combine to create an environment that promotes stress. But not all doctors feel that stress equally, nor do they deal with it equally. And LGBT residents may face stress triggers that heterosexual doctors never have to concern themselves with.
Depression is more common if you are LGBT
Heterosexual interns tend to follow a predictable pattern as it relates to depressive symptoms. When they show such symptoms, they typically reach their peak within 6 months of beginning their internship. After this point, depressive symptoms tend to decline.
According to data collected by the National Institute of Health, the pattern is different for LGBT interns. The data were collected from more than 7,000 interns between 2016 and 2018, where the interns would rate their mental health quarterly for the survey. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT interns did not experience a peak of depressive symptoms within 6 months – instead, their symptoms continued to steadily increase.
Although the survey did not specifically look at causation, the researchers believe that discrimination or harassment are likely culprits for the different experiences of heterosexual and LGBT doctors. This difference can lead to higher rates of burnout and suicidal thoughts.
Every year, it becomes more common for residents to self-identify as LGBT. As such, the disparate impact of their depressive symptoms also affects the medical community as a whole. It is only by recognizing the impact, and seeking ways to remedy it, that the community can improve their retention and raise the bar of medical care.