(NaturalNews) New doctors who are depressed are six times more likely to make medication-related errors and doctors who are not depressed, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers surveyed 123 pediatric residents at three U.S. children's hospitals, questioning them about their mental health, working environment and frequency of medical errors. These responses were then compared to the results of independent chart reviews conducted by a team of doctors and nurses.
The researchers found that 74 percent of the residents were burned out and 20 percent were depressed. Based on the chart reviews, burned-out residents did not make medication errors any more frequently than other residents, but depressed residents made such errors 6.2 times more frequently than those who were not depressed
Depressed residents were also more likely to report poor health, difficulty concentrating at work, and having worked in an impaired state more than twice in the previous month.
It is estimated that more than 400,000 people in the United States suffer preventable adverse drug affects every year, and that 98,000 die due to drug errors. These errors are most commonly attributed to a lack of sleep and leisure time, and the other stressful conditions related to medical residency.
While chart reviews found that burned-out residents were no more likely to make medication errors than other residents, burned-out residents were more likely to report making a "significant error" in the previous three months. The researchers remain unsure whether burned-out residents are making non-drug errors at a higher rate, or simply overestimating how many errors they make. Alternately, residents who are not burned-out may be underestimating their own error rate.
The current study is one of the first to examine the effects of depression and burnout on patient safety.
"Further efforts to study and improve the working conditions and mental health of doctors should be a priority," the researchers wrote.