A new study led by researchers at Yale Medical School found that microaggressions are a common experience for medical students and are associated with a positive screening for depression, lower medical school satisfaction, and a higher risk of contemplating transfer or withdrawal from medical school. Female students, Black students, and students with other minoritized racial identities are more likely to experience microaggressions, according to the study. Microagressions are defined as intentional or unintentional verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to the recipient based on their marginalized group membership.
The study, involving 759 students from 120 medical schools, is the largest to date of the experiences, frequency, and effects of microaggressions on a national sample of students at medical schools in the United States, according to the authors.
Almost 99 percent of respondents reported experiencing at least one microaggression in medical school, and nearly 34 percent reported experiencing a microaggression almost daily. Sixty-one percent experienced at least one microaggression a week. Respondents cited their gender (64.4%), race/ethnicity (60.5%), and age (40.9%) as the most common reasons for these experiences. Students identifying as Black, Asian, multiracial, and female were the most likely to have experienced microaggressions at least weekly.
The authors also found that the participants who experienced microaggressions at least weekly were less satisfied with medical school than those with fewer experiences. For example, they were less likely to recommend their medical school to friends and less likely to want to stay at their institution for residency, while they were significantly more likely to consider medical school transfer and withdrawal.
Lead author Nientara Anderson, a psychiatry resident at Yale Medical School, stated that “given that medical students who identified as female, Black, or belonging to other minoritized ethnic groups were the most likely to experience a high frequency of microaggressions, this data suggests that microaggressions may create a substantial psychic burden and hostile educational environment for medical students from historically oppressed groups.”
Dr. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art, a master’s degree in the history of science, and a medical doctorate, all from Yale University
The full study, “The Association of Microaggressions with Depressive Symptoms and Institutional Satisfaction Among a National Cohort of Medical Students,” was published on the website of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It may be accessed here.