Physician stress, burnout, loneliness worsening amid pandemic, Medscape finds

Dive Brief:

  • Two-thirds of physicians in the United States report worsening levels of burnout and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Medscape survey of 7,400 physicians in the U.S., United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.
  • About half of the U.S. physicians surveyed said they’re lonelier now than before the pandemic, and 43% said it has put stress on their relationships.
  • Compared with physicians in other countries surveyed, those in the U.S. and Brazil were more likely to report a loss in income. In the U.S. 62% of physicians reported up to a 50% reduction in income, among the largest declines of the countries surveyed.

Dive Insight:

Stress and burnout among providers have long been worries for the medical profession. Another Medscape report from January found 42% of U.S. physicians reported burnout, down slightly from 46% in 2015. But the new findings perhaps unsurprisingly suggest the pandemic is exacerbating the situation, which can have dire effects on doctor health and productivity.

Physician burnout is costly and can lead to depression, which has been linked to an increase in medical errors.

“Whether experiencing COVID-19 at a personal level, or watching a steep drop in their income, the stresses of practicing medicine during a pandemic are taking a toll,” Leslie Kane, senior director at Medscape, said in a statement.

While more than half of U.S. physicians said they aren’t considering switching careers, some 25% said they now plan to retire earlier than expected due to the pandemic.

U.S. physicians also reported spotty access to workplace programs to help them deal with grief and stress they feel at their jobs, similar to those in some other countries surveyed. A notable exception however is the U.K., where 55% of physicians said their workplaces provide those programs.

To help them cope with the stress, physicians in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil were most likely to report eating more, and those in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil reported drinking more alcohol than physicians in other countries.

U.S. physicians, however, were less likely than those in other countries to be diagnosed with COVID-19 or have an immediate family member diagnosed, according to the survey.