Many psychiatrists experience burnout and depression

Burnout and depression occur at a significant rate among psychiatrists, according to results of a survey study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“The limited data available about psychiatrist well-being and burnout indicate that psychiatrists are less burned out than physicians in other specialties and that they have slightly greater satisfaction with work-life balance,” Richard F. Summers, MD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “In addition, some correlates of burnout (e.g., trauma exposure) have been identified in this group. Work hours and lack of supervision were found to be correlated with burnout among psychiatric trainees.”
stressed doctor with head in hands
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Results of several prior small studies suggested higher depression rates among psychiatrists vs. other physician specialties; however, to the researchers’ knowledge, no study has yet examined factors associated with both depression and burnout among psychiatrists.
To address this research gap, Summers and colleagues evaluated the prevalence of burnout and depressive symptoms among 2,084 North American psychiatrists, determined their demographic and practice characteristics associated with an increased risk for these symptoms, and assessed the link between depression and burnout. Participants completed an online survey, as well as the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). They also provided practice information and demographic data and used linear regression analysis to identify factors linked to higher burnout and depression scores.
Results showed mean participant scores of 40.4 for OLBI and 5.1 for PHQ-9. Moreover, 78% of participants had an OLBI score of 35 or greater, which suggested high levels of burnout, and 16.1% of participants had PHQ-9 scores of 10 or greater, which suggested a major depression diagnosis. Factors significantly associated with higher OLBI scores included the presence of depressive symptoms, female gender, work setting, and inability to control one’s schedule; burnout, female gender, resident or early-career stage, and nonacademic setting practice were significantly linked to higher PHQ-9 scores. Further, 98% of the psychiatrists who had PHQ-9 scores of 10 or greater also had OLBI scores of 35 or greater.
According to a partially adjusted linear regression model, suicidal ideation was not significantly linked to burnout.

“The relationship between burnout and depression deserves much more study,” the researchers wrote. “Factor analysis of survey data could be helpful in defining the relationship, but a longitudinal study of physicians and psychiatrists as they progress through training and practice would be the most valuable method for clarifying the temporal relationship and overlap between burnout and depression, as well as the impact of interventions on each.”