Overall physician work hours dropped 7.6%, but rose for mother physicians

A recent study found physician work hours dropped by 7.6 percent in the last two decades, mostly due to a decrease among male physicians, especially fathers; however, work hours for mother physicians increased by 3 percent.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, compiled 87,297 monthly surveys from 17,599 unique households of physicians and advanced practice professionals between 2001 and 2021.

Here are five findings:

  1. The number of active physicians grew 32.9 percent from 2001 to 2021, peaking in 2018 at 989,684 before falling 6.7 percent by 2021.

  2. Average weekly work hours for individual physicians declined from 52.6 to 48.6 hours per week.

  3. The downward trend was driven by male physicians, particularly fathers, rural physicians and physicians aged 45 to 54 years.

  4. Physician mothers were the only subgroup to experience a statistically significant increase of work hours, at 3 percent.

  5. Advanced practice physicians contributed more weekly hours, which offset the lagging growth in the physician workforce.

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