Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Emotional distress in junior house officers.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 29 August 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:533
  1. J Firth-Cozens
  1. MRC/ESRC Social and Applied Psycology Unit, University of Sheffield.


    In a study of 170 junior house officers who were followed up from their fourth year in medical school mean levels of stress were higher than in other reported occupational groups, and the estimated prevalence of emotional disturbance was 50%, with 28% of the subjects showing evidence of depression. Nearly a fifth of the subjects reported occasional or frequent bouts of heavy drinking, a quarter took drugs for physical illness, and a few took drugs for recreation. Those who were emotionally distressed at the initial study and the follow up were more empathetic and more self critical than those who had low levels of stress on both occasions. Overwork was the most stressful aspect of their jobs, though the number of hours worked was not related to stress levels, unlike diet and sleep. The more stressed they were the more unfavourably they viewed aspects of their jobs. The incidence of distress is unacceptably high in junior house officers, and both they and the hospitals need to deal with the causes of the distress.