Physician burnout and depression continue to climb: Medscape

A recent Medscape report found physician burnout has increased to 53 percent — up 6 percent since 2021 — and 23 percent of physicians reported experiencing depression.

The "Medscape Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2023: 'I Cry and No One Cares'" surveyed more than 9,100 physicians across 29 specialities between June and October 2022. In the report, burnout was defined as "long-term, unresolved, job-related stress leading to exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from job responsibilities, and lacking a sense of personal accomplishment."

The report highlighted six findings regarding physician burnout:

  1. Burnout increased 6 percent in the last year (53 percent in 2022 versus 47 percent in 2021), and jumped 26 percent since 2018.

  2. Physicians with the highest levels of burnout were:
    • Physicians in emergency medicine — 65 percent
    • Internists — 60 percent
    • Pediatricians — 57 percent

  3. Female physicians were more likely to report burnout, at 63 percent, compared to male physicians, at 46 percent.

  4. Nearly 80 percent of physicians described their level of burnout as moderate to severe.

  5. Sixty-seven percent of physicians reported that burnout has harmed their relationships.

  6. Reasons physicians pointed to for their burnout:
    • Volume of bureaucratic demands — 61 percent
    • Lack of respect from coworkers — 38 percent
    • Their personalities, i.e. perfectionism, being overly empathetic — 33 percent
    • Stress of treating COVID-19 patients — 8 percent

The report also highlighted four statistics with respect to physician depression:

  1. Depression slightly increased in the last year, but is up by 8 percent since 2018 (23 percent in 2022 versus 15 percent in 2018).

  2. Of physicians reporting depression, 67 percent identified colloquial depression — feeling down or sad — and 24 percent reported clinical depression — severe, lasting and not caused by a normal grief event.

  3. Sixty-four percent of physicians pointed to job burnout as their primary reason for depression.

  4. One in five physicians said they turn to alcohol and binge eating as coping mechanisms, and 40 percent prefer to spend time alone.

Physicians identified three areas that could reduce their burnout and depression:

  1. Increased compensation — 45 percent

  2. More manageable work schedule — 44 percent

  3. More support staff and respect from supervisors and colleagues — 33 percent

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