For a while now I have been suspicious that physician burnout rates are increasing here in the USA, especially in the last five years or so. There is just too much political chaos, marketplace M&A activity and documentation overload for it to be otherwise.
Finally the research has caught up with this suspicion in the latest version of Mayo’s landmark 2011 physician burnout study. Here is our smoking gun at last. Unfortunately the numbers are bad and the burnout numbers, though mind boggling, are not the most concerning finding.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings this month published results of round two of their survey of burnout in physicians compared to burnout in the “normal population”. The first round in 2011 was major news across the country and the first study that compared physician burnout rates to those of non-physician workers.
The burnout rates are what I expected. The shocker is the number of physicians screening positive for depression and suicidal ideation that no one is reporting on.
The headline trends are these:
From 2011 to 2014 physician burnout rates in US physicians increased AND the gap between physician burnout rates and burnout rates in the normal population widened.
The headline stats are these:
54.4% of physicians admit to at least one symptom of burnout in 2014 up from 45.5% in 2011 – a 19.5% increase. The Maslach Burnout Inventory was used to measure burnout in both groups. The physician burnout symptom that was the most common is emotional exhaustion.
Burnout in the “normal population” stayed steady over that time period at about 25%. The odds ratio shows physicians are 1.97 times more likely to suffer from burnout than the normal population
What failed to gain any attention is that 39% of the physicians screened positive for depression. I think this slipped under the radar because this rate did not change between the studies. You have to dig deeper into the report to find this statistic.
The rate of suicidal ideation among the physicians jumped from 4.0 – 7.2%.That is an 80% increase. The survey question was about suicidal ideation in the previous year. 7.2% of physicians had thought about suicide. This is the shocker of the report for me.
Work Life Balance continues to worsen
When the survey tossed out the sentence, “My work schedule leaves me enough time for my personal and/or family life” here are the physician numbers who responded with either “disagree” or “strongly disagree”:
2011 – 37.1%
2014 – 44.5%
Again, a 20% increase over 2011
[ Download a PDF of the full study here ]
A database of 94,032 physicians was assembled via the American Medical Association Physician Master File. Physician Burnout surveys were delivered by email in August of 2014 with three reminder emails delivered over the ensuing 6 weeks.
35,922 physicians who opened at least 1 invitation e-mail were considered to have received the invitation to participate in the study.
Of those, 6880 or 19.2% filled out the survey
This 20% response rate is average is normal for surveys of this type. There is no data on how the non-responding 80% would have filled out the survey. All we know is this population of respondents is a statistically valid sample of the larger population with regards to demographics.
They surveyed a database of 5392 employed individuals ages 35-65 maintained by the Knowledge Panel whose website is here.
Both populations were screened for:
> Depression and suicidal ideation
> Satisfaction with work-life balance