Specialty and sex as predictors of depression in dentists

Author(s): Mathias S, Koerber A, Fadavi S, Punwani I


Background: Stress, burnout, substance abuse and suicide among dentists have been studied, yet no study in the United States has specifically addressed depression in e dentists. The objective of the authors' study was to determine if sex and dental specialty were correlated with depression in dentists.

Methods: The authors conducted a survey of a sample of dentists chosen randomly from the American Dental Association's mailing list of member dentists. The survey, stratified by sex and specialty, resulted in 560 responses, for a 53 percent response rate. The authors used the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale to measure depression. The authors examined the respondents' sex, age, number of children, marital status, specialty, practice type, location of practice, years in practice and hours worked per week.

Results: The rate of depression in the overall sample was 9 percent. Sex was associated with depression (P < .001), but specialty was not. However, multiple regression analysis found that sex was significantly related to depression in only two specialties: periodontics and pediatric dentistry. Overall, the regression model explained an unimpressive 6 percent of the variance in depression scores. The most important finding of the study was that only 15 percent of depressed dentists were receiving treatment.

Conclusions: The survey results showed that only female pediatric dentists and periodontists were more depressed than their male counterparts. None of the other variables studied contributed significantly to the understanding of depression in dentists. Depressed dentists, like other depressed people, tend not to seek treatment.

Clinical implications: Depression and serious depression occur among dentists, and much of it is untreated. Because depression is harmful to dentists and raises quality-of-care issues, they should be educated to help them recognize depression and encouraged to seek treatment.

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