Prevalence of Alexithymia and Depression in Medical Students Necessitate Attention

Author(s): Marium Aftab, Razia Aftab Ahmed, Komal Tirath, Ayesha Jawad, Rida Saleem

Background: Medical students are vulnerable to psychological problems like alexithymia and depression due to the pressure of time commitments, rapidly changing knowledge, exposure to emotionally challenging experiences, and meeting high expectations from society. Our study aims to find the prevalence of these problems in medical students in Karachi, Pakistan.

Methodology: This cross-sectional study includes 414 undergraduate medical students from multiple medical universities. The study tool was uploaded on Google survey; a questionnaire with background characteristics, TAS-20 scale for alexithymia prevalence, and PHQ-9 for depression prevalence.

Results: Out of 414 participants, 300 (72.5%) were females and 114 (27.5%) males. The majority were between the age range 21-33 (59%), among them 222(54%) from governmental medical universities and 192 (46%) from the private sector. Most had no chronic disease or financial problems. Alexithymia was found in 268 students (64.7%), while 15.9% were in the category of possible alexithymia. Depression was present in 291 (70%) students, depression severity score was 14±7. External-oriented thinking was higher than other subscales of alexithymia. Alexithymia had a statistically significant association with age, female gender, education level, lower GPA, lack of physical training, and depression. In turn, depression had a significant relation with the female gender, higher education level, and poor exam performance. Regression analysis showed that severe depression was a strong predictor of Alexithymia with a p-value of <0.001.

Conclusion: The study revealed a very high prevalence of alexithymia and depression in medical students necessitating attention because their wellbeing means physicians’ well-being and a path to strengthening patient care and professionalism.

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