More than 60% of physicians experienced burnout in 2021, study finds

Physicians' emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores were worse in 2021 than in 2020, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on Sept. 13. 

The 2021 study — also conducted in 2020, 2017, 2014 and 2011 — surveyed 2,440 U.S. physicians about work-life integration, burnout, depression and professional fulfillment. 

The pandemic's longevity has "taxed healthcare delivery systems to their limits," according to the study's authors. Its chronic nature has "depleted healthcare workers' emotional reserves," and political skepticism toward vaccines and science has taken a toll on patient-provider relationships. 

Five takeaways: 

  • A total of 62.8 percent of physicians experienced at least one manifestation of burnout in 2021, compared to 38.2 percent in 2020. 
  • Physicians' mean emotional exhaustion was 38.6 percent higher in 2021 than in 2020. 
  • Physicians' mean depersonalization was 60.7 percent higher in 2021 than in 2020. 
  • Burnout for physicians was 25 percent more prevalent in 2021 than in 2020. 
  • Satisfaction with work-life integration declined from 2021 to 2020, but depression scores showed little difference — indicating distress is work related, according to the study's authors. 

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