Original Research

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

Narushni Pillay, Suvira Ramlall, Jonathan K. Burns
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 22, No 1 | a731 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v22i1.731 | © 2016 Narushni Pillay, Suvira Ramlall, Jonathan K. Burns | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 December 2014 | Published: 22 March 2016

About the author(s)

Narushni Pillay, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Suvira Ramlall, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jonathan K. Burns, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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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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Crossref Citations

1. A Nationwide Panel Study on Religious Involvement and Depression in South Africa: Evidence from the South African National Income Dynamics Study
Andrew Tomita, Suvira Ramlall
Journal of Religion and Health  year: 2018  
doi: 10.1007/s10943-017-0551-5