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Help-seeking for mental health problems among young physicians: is it the most ill that seeks help?

A longitudinal and nationwide study

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The aims of this study were to assess the prevalence of self-reported mental health problems and help-seeking among young physicians, and identify predictors of seeking help.


A prospective cohort sample of Norwegian medical students (N=631) were assessed in their final semester (T1), and in the first (T2) and fourth (T3) postgraduate year. The average observation period was 3.6 years.


The prevalence of mental health problems that needed treatment over the preceding year was observed to have increased from 11% at T2 to 17% at T3. There was no increase in help-seeking. Longitudinally, 34% reported that they needed treatment on one or several occasions. Adjusted predictors of help-seeking were perceived level of mental health problems and a reality weakness personality trait.


Those who sought help had higher levels of emotional distress than those who did not. However, higher reality weakness scores predicted lower help-seeking and, therefore, may be a risk factor for avoiding necessary care.

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Correspondence to Reidar Tyssen MD, PhD.

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Tyssen, R., Røvik, J.O., Vaglum, P. et al. Help-seeking for mental health problems among young physicians: is it the most ill that seeks help?. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 39, 989–993 (2004).

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