Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance Among US Physicians Relative to the General US Population
Oct 3rd, 2013 by
Background Despite extensive data about physician burnout, to our knowledge, no national study has evaluated rates of burnout among US physicians, explored differences by specialty, or compared physicians with US workers in other fields.
Methods We conducted a national study of burnout in a large sample of US physicians from all specialty disciplines using the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and surveyed a probability-based sample of the general US population for comparison. Burnout was measured using validated instruments. Satisfaction with work-life balance was explored.
Results Of 27 276 physicians who received an invitation to participate, 7288 (26.7%) completed surveys. When assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, 45.8% of physicians reported at least 1 symptom of burnout. Substantial differences in burnout were observed by specialty, with the highest rates among physicians at the front line of care access (family medicine, general internal medicine, and emergency medicine). Compared with a probability-based sample of 3442 working US adults, physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9% vs 27.8%) and to be dissatisfied with work-life balance (40.2% vs 23.2%) (P < .001 for both). Highest level of education completed also related to burnout in a pooled multivariate analysis adjusted for age, sex, relationship status, and hours worked per week. Compared with high school graduates, individuals with an MD or DO degree were at increased risk for burnout (odds ratio [OR], 1.36; P < .001), whereas individuals with a bachelor’s degree (OR, 0.80; P = .048), master’s degree (OR, 0.71; P = .01), or professional or doctoral degree other than an MD or DO degree (OR, 0.64; P = .04) were at lower risk for burnout.
Conclusions Burnout is more common among physicians than among other US workers. Physicians in specialties at the front line of care access seem to be at greatest risk.
Although the practice of medicine can be incredibly meaningful and personally fulfilling, it is also demanding and stressful. Results of studies1- 3 suggest that many physicians experience professional burnout, a syndrome characterized by a loss of enthusiasm for work (emotional exhaustion), feelings of cynicism (depersonalization), and a low sense of personal accomplishment. Although difficult to fully measure and quantify, findings of recent studies4- 8 suggest that burnout may erode professionalism, influence quality of care, increase the risk for medical errors, and promote early retirement. Burnout also seems to have adverse personal consequences for physicians, including contributions to broken relationships, problematic alcohol use, and suicidal ideation.9- 11
Despite the extensive data on physician burnout, to our knowledge, no national study has evaluated rates of burnout among US physicians. Although there has been much conjecture about which medical or surgical specialty areas are high risk, this speculation has primarily been based on comparisons across studies of physicians from individual disciplines, for which differences in sample selection, study size and setting, participation rates, and year of survey administration confound interpretation. The literature on physician burnout is also hampered by a lack of data about how rates of burnout for US physicians compare with rates for US workers in other fields.
To address these issues, we conducted a national study of burnout among a large sample of US physicians in June 2011 that included representation across all the specialty disciplines. We also surveyed a probability-based sample of the general US population for comparison with physicians.
-Tait D. Shanafelt, MD; Sonja Boone, MD; Litjen Tan, PhD; Lotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE; Wayne Sotile, PhD; Daniel Satele, BS; Colin P. West, MD, PhD; Jeff Sloan, PhD; Michael R. Oreskovich, MD; JAMA