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

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

10 hours ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

18 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

18 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments