Background Four percent of the world’s population suffers from depression, which is a major public health issue. Medical students are at risk, as their depressive symptoms (DS) prevalence is reported to be approximately 27% worldwide. Since few data on Italian medical students exist, this study aimed to estimate their DS prevalence and assess risk and protective factors. Methods The PRIMES was a multicentre cross-sectional study performed in 12 Italian medical schools. Questionnaires were self-reported and included 30 sociodemographic items and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). The primary outcome was the presence of DS (BDI-II score�14). The main analyses were chi-squared tests and multivariable logistic regressions with a p-value<0.05 considered significant. Results The number of collected questionnaires was 2,513 (117 BDI-II incomplete). Females accounted for 61.3% of the respondents, and the median age was 22 years (IQR = 4). The prevalence of DS was 29.5%. Specifically, 14.0% had mild depression, 11.1% had moder- ate depression, and 4.5% had severe depression. The main risk factors for DS were age, being female, bisexual/asexual orientation, living with partner/housemates, poor economic status (worsened by living far from home), less than 90 min of weekly exercise, relatives with psychiatric disorders, personal chronic disease, judging medical school choice nega- tively, unsatisfying friendships with classmates, competitive and hostile climate among classmates, thinking that medical school hinders specific activities and being worried about not measuring up to the profession. Protective factors included family cohesion, hobbies, intellectual curiosity as a career motivation and no worries about the future. Conclusion Italian medical students are at high risk of reporting DS, similar to the global population of medical students’. Medical schools must make efforts to implement preventive and treat- ment interventions by offering counselling and working on modifiable factors, such as life- style and learning climate.
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