Around one-third of medical students reported alcohol abuse or dependence, a study says. Getty Images

Medical students struggle with alcohol problems at a rate twice as high as the general population, according to a new study, and researchers suggest that high student debt and exhaustion may be to blame.

The study published in the journal Academic Medicine found that one-third of medical students reported alcohol abuse or dependence problems, while the general population experience them at a rate of 16 percent. Medical students also showed twice as high of a risk for alcohol problems than surgeons and physicians, according to the study.

National Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse | HealthGrove

"Our findings clearly show there is reason for concern," said Liselotte Dyrbye, the lead author of the study and an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "We recommend institutions pursue a multifaceted solution to address related issues with burnout, the cost of medical education and alcohol abuse."

Among the signs of an alcohol problem is drinking more, or more frequently, than planned. Researchers said medical students may be at high risk because of emotional exhaustion, and other potential factors such as young age, being unmarried and the weight of high student debt. They suggest that medical schools ramp up their wellness efforts to help identify what is contributing to students' stress.

The study's conclusions were based on a survey sent to 12,500 medical students across the United States. The Mayo Clinic received responses from about one-third of the students.