Spirituality, depression and quality of life in medical students in KwaZulu-Natal

Narushni Pillay, Suvira Ramlall, Jonathan K. Burns

Abstract


Background: The majority of studies on spirituality demonstrate its positive association with mental health. Despite the increasing number of studies, there remains a dearth of studies emanating from African countries looking at the relationship between mental illness, quality of life and measures of spirituality. The present study evaluates the role of spirituality in relation to current depression and quality of life in medical students, who are known to be at high risk for depression.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of moderate and severe depressive symptoms in this population and explore potential correlations between spirituality, depression and quality of life.

Methods: 230 medical students were surveyed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical School, using the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zung SDS), Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS), WHO Quality of Life Scale (WHOQOL) and a demographic data sheet.

Results: There was a high prevalence of depressive symptoms in the medical students, with a significant proportion (15.6%) showing evidence of severe depressive symptoms (indicating likely depressive illness). Those with a history of mental illness or of having attended traditional, complementary or alternate medical practitioners showed higher levels of depression. Lower spirituality was associated with non-adherence to a major religion and a history of mental illness. Quality of life was better in second and fifth year students and poorer in those with a history of mental illness.

Conclusion: Medical students’ experiences of depression (most probably due to stress) and its relationship with spirituality and quality of life merit further investigation with a view to establishing policy guidelines for dealing with this issue.


Keywords


spirituality, depression, medical students, quality of life

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v22i1.731

Submitted: 01 December 2014
Published: 22 March 2016




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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)