The prevalence of psychological distress is increasing worldwide. Stressful working environments and high expectations in medical practice put doctors at high risk of depression, anxiety, and stress, especially among medical interns. Effective coping strategies may reduce psychological distress in the clinical setting. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of psychological distress and its association with coping strategies among medical interns in Malaysia.
A total of 431 medical interns at 26 Malaysian Ministry of Health hospitals participated in this cross‐sectional study in 2017. Self‐administered questionnaires consisting of sociodemographic characteristics, items from DASS and BRIEF COPE were used. Descriptive analysis was done followed by further analysis with chi‐square and Spearman correlation tests.
The prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression was 29.7%, 39.9%, and 26.2%, with a significantly higher prevalence among female and younger interns. Three‐quarters of them (73.1%) applied problem‐focused strategies as the main coping mechanism. Emotion‐focused coping strategies showed a significant but weak correlation with anxiety and stress whereas avoidance‐based coping strategies were significantly correlated with depression, anxiety, and stress.
Medical internship is a highly grueling period. Besides emphasizing clinical competency, internship training should also impart the practice of healthy coping mechanisms. The vulnerable groups of females and younger interns should be taught positive coping skills so that they are empowered to handle any stressors on their personal and professional lives. Optimum psychological wellbeing of the medical interns can improve the overall work performance and quality of care for patients.