Survey finds symptoms of burnout common among US physicians

A national survey of 7,288 physicians (26.7 percent participation rate) finds that 45.8 percent of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine.

Other studies have suggested burnout may influence the quality of care and increase the risk for , as well as have adverse effects on , including broken relationships, problem drinking and suicidal thoughts, according to the study background.

Tait D. Shanafelt, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and colleagues conducted a national study of burnout in physicians from all specialty disciplines using the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and a sample of working U.S. adults from the general population for comparison.

The study's results indicate that 37.9 percent of U.S. physicians had high , 29.4 percent had high depersonalization and 12.4 percent had a low sense of personal accomplishment. Compared with 3,442 working U.S. adults, physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9 percent vs. 27.8 percent) and to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance (40.2 percent vs. 23.2 percent), the study found.

Differences in burnout also varied by specialty with emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology and family medicine having the highest rates, while pathology, dermatology, general pediatrics and had the lowest rates, according to the study.

"Collectively, the findings of this national study indicate that (1) the prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians is at an alarming level, (2) physicians in specialties at the front line of care access (, general internal medicine and ) are at greatest risk, (3) physicians work longer hours and have greater struggles with work-life integration than other U.S. workers and (4) after adjusting for hours worked per week, higher levels of education and professional degrees seem to reduce the risk for burnout in fields outside of medicine, whereas a degree in medicine (M.D., or D.O.) increases the risk," the authors conclude.

Researchers suggest more work needs to be done to understand physician burnout and develop interventions.

"The fact that almost 1 in 2 U.S. physicians has symptoms of burnout implies that the origins of this problem are rooted in the environment and care delivery system rather than in the personal characteristics of a few susceptible individuals," the authors conclude. "Policy makers and health care organizations must address the problem of physician burnout for the sake of physicians and their patients."

More information: Arch Intern Med. Published online August 20, 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3199.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Few surgeons seek help for suicidal thoughts

Jan 17, 2011

As many as one in 16 surgeons reported having suicidal thoughts in the previous year, but few sought help from a mental health clinician, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of Surgery.

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments