Survey Finds Nearly a Third of UK Doctors Suffer from Burnout

JANUARY 29, 2020
Patrick Campbell
burnoutResults of a survey of more than 1600 physicians are revealing burnout may be a more universal issue in healthcare than previously expected.

In what the study’s authors suggest is the largest published study of its kind, survey results suggest burnout could be impacting more than 30% of doctors in the United Kingdom and almost 10% were at-risk for high burnout.

Using a multipart online survey conducted between October and November 2018, investigators assessed 1651 physicians across a variety of specialties practicing in the United Kingdom. The majority of respondents (85.2%) identified themselves as having a non-surgical specialty—with almost a third of the survey participants (31%) were doctors involved in general practice.

Respondents answered questions assessing resilience, professional quality of life, and 14 different dimensions of coping—this was done through use of the Connor Division Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), the Professional Quality of Life Scale, and the 28-item BRIEF COPE scale.

Of the 1651 physicians who agreed to participate, 1630 completed demographic questions, 1518 completed CD-RISC, 1423 completed Pro-QOLV, and 1382 completed BRIEF-COPE.

When examining resilience among the 1518 responding doctors, the mean resilience score was 65, which investigators point out is lower than scores found in other United Kingdom-based studies.

No significant differences were noted between male and female resilience scores (men 66.4, women 64.6), but investigators pointed out hospital-based doctors scored higher than general practitioners (t=−3.64, P<.001)and a similar pattern was observed when comparing surgical specialties to non-surgical specialties (t=4.22, P<.001). 

Among the 1423 physicians who responded to the quality of life questions, the mean burnout score was 28.1 (6.0), mean secondary traumatic stress score was 23.7 (5.8), and mean compassion satisfaction was 35.4 (6.6).

Based on the results of the survey, 31.5% of doctors had high burnout, 26.2% reported high secondary traumatic stress, and 30.7% had low compassion satisfaction. Of the survey respondents, 8% of doctors met the criteria for having high burnout, high secondary traumatic stress, and low compassion satisfaction.

When assessing coping mechanisms, investigators found the most commonly reported mechanism by the cohort was self-distraction, which investigators classified as maladaptive. The most commonly reported adaptive mechanism reported by respondents were active planning and emotional support.

Using the results of their survey and subsequent analysis as support, investigators suggest further research should explore burnout and secondary traumatic stress among physicians. Investigators also argue the results of the study support the idea health systems need to prioritize the well-being of doctors to ensure the quality of health care provided remains high.

This study, titled “Resilience, burnout and coping mechanisms in UK doctors: a cross sectional study,” was published online in the BMJ Open.

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