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Logo of bmcpsycBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Psychiatry
BMC Psychiatry. 2011; 11: 36.
Published online 2011 March 8. doi:  10.1186/1471-244X-11-36
PMCID: PMC3062591

Improving Knowledge and Attitudes towards Depression: a controlled trial among Chinese medical students



Establishing an evidence-based method of improving knowledge and attitudes concerning depression has been identified as a priority in Chinese medical education. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a self-directed learning strategy as a part of student-centred education improved knowledge of and attitudes towards depression among Chinese medical students.


A controlled trial in which 205 medical students were allocated to one of two groups: didactic teaching (DT) group or a combined didactic teaching and self-directed learning (DT/SDL) group. The DT/SDL group continued having a series of learning activities after both groups had a lecture on depression together. Student's knowledge and attitudes were assessed immediately after the activities, one month and six months later.


The intervention (DT/SDL) group showed substantially greater improvements in recognition of depression as a major health issue and identifying helpful treatments than the DT group. Only the DT/SDL group demonstrated any improvement in attitudes. This improvement was sustained over six months.


Self-directed learning is an effective education strategy in improving medical students' knowledge of and attitudes towards depression.

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