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January 16, 2020

The happiest physicians—and the most burned-out ones in 2020, according to Medscape

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    More than 40% of physicians are burned out, but doctors in some specialties—and generations—are suffering more than others, according to Medscape's 2020 National Physicians Burnout & Depression Report, which was released Wednesday.

    Infographic: The 4 ways you can fight physician burnout

    For the report, Medscape surveyed more than 15,000 physicians across more than 29 specialties about a variety of topics, including burnout, depression, and happiness at work. Medscape also compared how physicians in different generations, including millennials (25 to 39 years old), Generation X (40 to 54 years old), and baby boomers (55 to 73 years old) experience burnout.

    Burnout and depression among physicians

    Of all the physicians surveyed, 42% reported that they felt burned out. That's down slightly from last year's report, when 44% of physicians were burned out.

    Burnout rates varied by gender and generation. According to the survey, women (48%) were more likely to report feelings of burnout than men (37%), while physicians from Generation X (48%) were the most likely to report feelings of burnout, followed by baby boomers (39%) and millennials (38%).

    Burnout rates also varied by specialty:

    Specialties that consistently had the highest portion of burned-out physicians over the past five years include critical care, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, and urology.

    Medscape also found that where physicians practice also played a part in burnout:

    According to Medscape, physicians with solo practices might experience less burnout because they are in charge of their own workload.

    When asked about the biggest contributors to burnout, 55% of respondents said they had to deal with too many bureaucratic tasks, while 33% said they were spending too many hours at work:

    According to Medscape, long hours, workload, and a lack of support have consistently ranked as the top causes of burnout over the years.

    When asked how they cope with feelings of burnout, 45% of physicians said they isolate themselves from others. Forty-five percent of physicians also said they turned to exercise for burnout relief, while 42% said they talk with family members and close friends.

    More than 60% of physicians said they do not plan to seek help for their burnout or depression. When asked why, about half said their symptoms weren't severe enough, while others responded that they could deal with their burnout without professional help or were simply too busy.

    The happiest and least happy physicians, by generation

    Medscape also asked physicians about their happiness at work and found that 54% of primary care physicians reported they were happy with their work life, while 60% of specialists said they were happy.  

    In addition, the survey revealed that overall work happiness varied by generation:

    Physician reports of depression also varied by generation, with 15% of millennials, 18% of Generation X, and 16% of boomers reporting being depressed (Kane, Medscape, 1/15).

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