By Diana Phillips
WebMD Health News
Feb. 2, 2015 -- Nearly half of family doctors under 35 feel burned out, according to a new survey by Medscape.
In the 2015 Family Physician Lifestyle Report, which updates a previous report on doctors' lifestyles and job displeasure, 43% of family doctors in this age group said they had burnout, defined as loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. This is a big rise compared to the rates in the 2013 report, in which fewer than 10% of the youngest family doctors said they felt their spirits sinking, career-wise.
Half (50%) of family doctors across all age categories said they had burnout in the 2015 report, up from 43% in 2013. Compared with other specialties represented in the 2015 overall lifestyle report, the burnout rate among family doctors is on par with that of internists, general surgeons, and infectious disease specialists. It is lower than only two specialties: critical care (53%) and emergency medicine (52%). Doctors with the lowest rates of feeling worn-out in the new report are dermatologists (37%), psychiatrists (38%), and pathologists (39%).
On a scale from 1 ("does not interfere with my life") to 7 ("so severe I'm thinking of leaving medicine"), family doctors gave their burnout an average score of 4.17, the eighth highest score among the 26 specialties in the report. The three specialties with the highest burnout severity scores were nephrology (4.3), cardiology (4.39), and plastic surgery (4.28) -- although those were not specialties with the largest percentage of worn-out doctors, the authors point out.
Burnout has been shown to influence patient care for the worse, and the factors that lead to it are linked with higher odds of doctors leaving their practice, the authors report. Also, job stress has been shown to be a contributing factor to suicide, the rates of which are already higher in doctors than in the general population.
Bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, computerization, and not enough income were the highest-rated causes of job exhaustion on a scale of 1 ("not at all important") to 7 ("extremely important"), with scores of 5.14, 4.23, 3.99, and 3.85, respectively.
More female family doctors (56%) than male family physicians (47%) reported feeling worn-out in the 2015 survey.
Burnout status among family doctors might be linked to finances. Nearly half (47%) of worn-out family doctors report having minimal savings to unmanageable debt compared with one-third (33%) of those without burnout. Also, although 61% of non-burned-out family doctors believe they have adequate savings, only 47% of those with job exhaustion feel the same.
The authors suggest that worn-out doctors were more likely to report being overweight or obese and avoid exercise, and they were less likely to volunteer than their professionally happier colleagues.
What's more, 46% of burned-out family doctors report taking 2 weeks or less vacation per year, and 7% take none, compared with 34% and 3% of their non-worn-out peers.