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Nearly Half of Physicians Report Burnout


Compared to other working adults, physicians are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance or have symptoms of burnout.

Compared to other working adults, physicians are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance or have symptoms of burnout, according to a national study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Almost half (46%) of U.S. physicians reported burnout symptoms, such as feelings of cynicism or “depersonalization” toward patients. In addition to causing medical errors, the high rate of burnout in the health care industry is one of the leading causes of the physician shortage as doctors leave the industry to find other jobs, according to a survey from November 2011.

In addition to evaluating burnout rates among physicians by specialty, it compared physicians to other employed adults. More than 7,200 physicians answered surveys and a modified version of their questionnaire was compared with a probability-based sample of nearly 3,500 working adults. Physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout with 38% of physicians compared to 28% of other working adults.

Individuals with an MD or DO degree had an increased risk for burnout, even compared to people with master’s degrees, professional degrees or other doctoral degrees. The highest level of education completed related to burnout.

Physicians at the front line of care access were at the greatest risk of burnout: family medicine, general internal medicine and emergency medicine. Preventive care specialists are among the least affected.

In fact, preventive care specialists, along with those in occupational medicine and environmental medicine, reported being the most satisfied with the time they have for personal or family life. General surgeons are the least satisfied.

Here are the specialties reporting the largest and smallest percentages of burnout:

Most burnout

5. Otolaryngology


4. Family medicine


3. Neurology


2. General internal medicine


1. Emergency medicine


Least burnout

5. Radiation oncology


4. Pathology


3. General pediatrics


2. Dermatology


1. Preventive medicine, occupational medicine or environmental medicine


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