Hazing and the Mental Health of Medical Students

ABSTRACT Introduction The practice of hazing is a phenomenon that began in the middle ages and persists in many universities around the world. In Brazil, although the problem is widely recognized, it has been insufficiently studied. Objective To estimate the prevalence of hazing among medical students of a public university in São Paulo state – Brazil, and investigate factors associated with this problem. Method A cross-sectional study was conducted, including 477 medical students from the first to the sixth year of the course. The self-reporting questionnaire included questions and structured instruments to access: socio-demographic characteristics, aspects of academic life, social support, symptoms of depression, harmful alcohol use (using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test – AUDIT), common mental disorder (using the Self-Reporting Questionnaire – SRQ), whether the participant had suffered any form of hazing that he/she considered abusive or whether the participant had practiced hazing about which he/she felt guilty or regretful afterwards. Bivariate analyses were conducted, followed by logistic regression analyses to identify independent predictors of these two outcomes (having suffered abusive hazing or having participated in hazing and feeling regretful afterwards). Results The response rate was 87.0%. Among the participants, 39.8% (95% CI: 35.4% – 44.2%) reported having suffered abusive hazing and 7.5% (95% CI: 5.2% – 9.9%) reported having practiced hazing. Those who reported having suffered abusive hazing were more likely to be male, to report difficulties in adaptation to the city, lower social support and psychiatric and/or psychological treatment after entering university. Those who practiced hazing and felt regretful afterwards were also more likely to be male, were older and presented higher mean scores in the AUDIT. Conclusion Hazing was associated with the male sex and mental health treatment among the victims, and with harmful alcohol use among the perpetrators. It is essential that medical schools discuss and better understand the problem of hazing in order to adopt effective preventive measures.