Efficacy of a brief screening tool to identify medical students in distress

Liselotte N. Dyrbye, Alan Schwartz, Steven M. Downing, Daniel W. Szydlo, Jeff A. Sloan, Tait D. Shanafelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine whether the Medical Student Well-Being Index (MSWBI) can serve as a brief assessment tool to identify medical students in severe psychological distress. Method: The authors used data from 2,248 medical students at seven U.S. medical schools who responded to a 2007 survey to explore the accuracy of the MSWBI in identifying medical students with three outcomes: low mental quality of life (QOL; defined by having a Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health Survey mental component summary score ≥1/2 standard deviation below that of the age- and gender-matched population norm), suicidal ideation, or serious thoughts of dropping out. The authors confirmed their analyses using data from a separate sample of 2,682 students evaluated in 2009. Results: Students with low mental QOL, suicidal ideation, or serious thoughts of dropping out were more likely to endorse each individual MSWBI item and a greater number of total items than were students without such distress (all P < .001). The likelihood ratio for low mental QOL among students with MSWBI scores <4 was 0.47 as compared with 4.79 for those with scores ≥4. At an MSWBI threshold score of ≥4, the MSWBI's sensitivity and specificity for identifying students with low mental QOL or recent suicidal ideation/serious thoughts of dropping out were both ≥90%. On multivariable logistic regression, all MSWBI items were independently associated with at least one outcome. Conclusions: The MSWBI is a useful brief screening tool to help identify students with severe distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)907-914
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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