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Inadequate Sleep and Exercise Associated with Burnout and Depression Among Medical Students



The authors studied whether low levels of exercise or inadequate sleep correlated with higher levels of burnout and depression in medical students.


Medical students of all years at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey in Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. Validated measures were used to assess exercise, sleep, burnout, and depression.


Response rates were 28.7 % at the beginning of the school year and 22.6 % at the middle of the school year. Burnout rates overall were 22.4 % at the beginning of the year and 19.2 % in the middle of the year. Eight percent of students screened positive for depression at the beginning of the year and 9.3 % in the middle of the year. Decreased exercise frequency was significantly correlated with lower professional efficacy. Pathological sleepiness was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of burnout. Inadequate sleep correlated with significantly lower professional efficacy and higher exhaustion scores. Burnout was associated with a positive depression screen. Positive depression screening, pathological sleepiness, and sleeping less than 7 h a night were independent predictors of burnout.


Sleep habits, exercise, and a positive depression screen were associated with burnout risk within the medical student population.

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The authors wish to thank the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Scholarly Project Directors for their support of this project. Statistical support was provided through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh, a project supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Grant Numbers UL1 RR024153 and UL1TR000005. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale© was used with permission by the author and Mapi Research Trust (Lyon, France), the registered distributor.

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Correspondence to Megan R. Wolf.

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This study was approved by the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board (PRO11100026) and the Research on Medical Students Approval Board.


The corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. This article was presented as a poster presentation at the Association for Academic Psychiatry 2014 Annual Meeting on September 17–20, 2014 in Portland, OR.

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Wolf, M.R., Rosenstock, J.B. Inadequate Sleep and Exercise Associated with Burnout and Depression Among Medical Students. Acad Psychiatry 41, 174–179 (2017).

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  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Medical students
  • Exercise
  • Sleep