The Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2022: Stress, Anxiety, and Anger presents results from a survey of over 13,000 physicians in 29 specialties (Kane, 2022). It found that physicians taking the survey, which was given in 2021, had a burnout rate of 42%, and 21% said they were depressed. Of those with burnout, 54% said it has a strong to severe impact on their lives.
There are a number of limitations to the survey as a measure of the distress physicians face in their work and the impact in their lives. These include that the extent to which physicians who feel symptoms of burnout might be more drawn to take a survey on burnout than other physicians is not known. Nor is it known whether readers of Medscape, which conducted the survey, are representative of physicians in general. Furthermore, in this survey, physicians self assess their “burnout” rather than the component symptoms. However, because the survey is repeated annually using the same methods and questions, and because the number of participants is high with a broad representation of the different specialties, comparisons between years are likely to show fairly accurate trends. For example, the overall physician burnout rate has not changed much in these reports: The self-reported burnout rate in 2022 was 42%, in 2021 was 37%, and in 2020 was 42%. Unsurprisingly, considering the effect of the pandemic, the specialty having the highest rate of burnout in the 2022 report was Emergency Medicine (60%, an increase of 10% over the pre-pandemic 2020 report), followed by Critical Care (53%, an increase of 9% over the 2020 report). Family Medicine rates were also high in the 2022 report (51%), which may help explain why physicians in outpatient clinics unexpectedly had higher rates of burnout (58%) than specialties based in hospitals (48%).
Participating physicians chose from a list of possible contributors, the factor most affecting their burnout. “Too many bureaucratic tasks, such as charting and paperwork,” was by far the most commonly perceived contributor to burnout; it was selected by 60% of the participants. Only 34% of the physicians said “too many hours at work” contributes the most to their burnout. The factors that the physicians felt would most likely reduce burnout were a manageable work schedule, more money, greater respect, more autonomy, lighter patient loads, and more support staff. Approximately a third of participants perceived that each of these factors would most likely reduce burnout.
The report covers many other aspects of this topic, including how physician age and personality affect burnout rates, possible reasons for higher rates of burnout in women physicians than men, the effect of burnout on physician relationships, how COVID-19 has affected work-life happiness, physician response to burnout, and ways physicians keep up their happiness and mental health. The report also discusses the relationship between depression and burnout found in this survey and the impact of physician depression on patients.
Only 42% of physicians reported that their workplaces offer programs to reduce stress or burnout. Many physicians (49%) reported that they can deal with burnout or depression without help from a professional. Almost as many (43%) do not want to risk disclosure to a medical board and 32% do not want it on their insurance record. Interestingly, fewer physicians were concerned about colleagues knowing of their struggles. This supports developing peer support skills as a prevention for burnout, which is a focus of Lift.ClinicalEncounters.com.
Kane L. Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2022: Stress, Anxiety, and Anger. Medscape. January 21, 2022.