Study identifies link between depressive symptoms and medical errors


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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Doctors who screen positive for depressive symptoms are at higher risk for medical errors, according to the authors of a new study published this week in JAMA Network Open

For the systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers examined data from 11 studies, including seven longitudinal studies and four cross-sectional studies, to investigate whether physician depressive symptoms were associated with medical errors. The studies involved a total of 21,517 doctors. 

The authors found the overall relative risk (RR) for medical errors among physicians with a positive screening for depression was 1.95 (95% CI 1.63-2.33), with high heterogeneity across the studies. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of four of the longitudinal studies found that medical errors associated with subsequent depressive symptoms had a pooled RR of 1.67 (95% CI 1.48-1.87; P=.60; I2 = 0%), which the authors said suggests that the association between physician depressive symptoms and medical errors is bidirectional. 

“Further research is needed to evaluate whether interventions to reduce physician depressive symptoms could play a role in mitigating medical errors and thus improving physician well-being and patient care,” the authors concluded.