Urgent Action to Protect Junior Doctor's Mental Health
The Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) echoes the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) call for urgent action to support doctors in training.
While junior doctors' mental health has long been a concern for the Australian medical workforce and medical students, fresh evidence has established the relationship between long working hours and risk of suicide.
A study spearheaded by experts, including AMSA past presidents Dr Jessica Dean and Dr Benjamin G. Veness, published  in the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open, found that junior doctors who work more than 55 hours per week were twice at risk of common mental disorders and suicide ideation, compared with their peers who work between 40 and 44 hours per week.
The research was based on data from an anonymous, self-reported Beyondblue National Mental Health Survey in 2013, in which 12,252 doctors provided eligible data (response rate approximately 27 per cent).
“Mental health issues in the workplace are a concern for us as medical students,” AMSA President Daniel Zou said today.
“Although we can’t speak for junior doctors in training, we can speak for a generation of medical students who will soon enter this very workplace and culture.
“Long working hours and the risk of burnout after graduation are at the front of our minds.. Medical students are encouraged throughout their studies to build strategies to help them manage the high intensity of a medical degree and junior doctor training.
“Medical students know that junior doctors have long working hours. We feel obliged to conform to the current culture, despite the risk to our mental health.”
A number of related factors highlighted by literature collectively point towards changes required to tackle the multifactorial problem, such as the lack of sleep and fatigue, doctors' perceived stress, confusion in mandatory reporting legislation changes, unrecognised overtime hours, and competition due to limited vocational training resources.
"Mental health interventions should be evidence-based where possible. Where evidence may be lacking, innovative approaches should be investigated and trialled," Mr Zou said.
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is the peak representative body of Australia’s 17,000 medical students. AMSA represents the perspectives of future medical professionals who share significant concerns for the mental health and wellbeing of medical students and junior doctors, as nominated as the top national advocacy priority by its members in the National Student Survey 2019.
 The BMJ Open research paper is available at https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e033525
Henness Wong, Public Relations Officer
Isabelle Nehme, Vice President External - 0448 090 297
Published: 28 Jan 2020