Blog | Thursday, August 23, 2012

QD: News Every Day--burnout risk appears worse for doctors on the 'front lines'

Doctors on the "front lines" of medical care, including general internists, are at higher risk for burnout than doctors in other specialties, and physicians overall are at higher risk than the general population, according to a new study.

Researchers used data from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and surveyed a sample of the U.S. population to compare burnout risk by physician specialty and between physicians and the general population. Among 7,288 included physicians, 45.8% reported at least one burnout symptom on the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The highest burnout rates were reported among physicians working in emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology and family medicine.

Satisfaction with work-life balance was highest among physicians working in dermatology, general pediatrics and preventive medicine and lowest among those working in general surgery, general surgery subspecialties and obstetrics/gynecology. In a comparison with the general population, more physicians reported burnout symptoms and dissatisfaction with work-life balance (37.9% and 40.2%) than did a probability-based sample of 3,442 employed adults (27.8% and 23.2%); the difference for both variables was statistically significant.

On the basis of their results, the study authors concluded that the prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians "is at an alarming level." They noted, however, that available evidence on how best to alleviate physician burnout is limited and called for additional research on the topic "to identify personal, organizational and societal interventions."

The full text of the study, which was published by Archives of Internal Medicine, is available free of charge online.