Despite recent reports highlighting physician stress and burnout, a new CompHealth and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) survey found that doctors are generally happy with their lives and careers. A survey of more than 5,000 physicians found that 71% said they're happy and 59% are satisfied with their lives in general. The report said 44% of physicians have seen quality of patient care improve since they began practicing medicine.
Relationships in the office were a key factor in positive results. Physicians with no friends at work had lower life satisfaction.
The findings weren't all positive, though. The survey found that more than two-thirds of physicians said lack of control, clerical burdens and emotional exhaustion took away from their happiness. Specifically, 28% said administrative duties affect workplace satisfaction. Lack of time with patients was another common complaint. More than half said they have less time with patients now.
Physicians are no different from anyone else when it comes to the importance of relationships and overall mental health. Positive relationships with family members, friends, coworkers and patients are a road to workplace happiness, the survey found.
The good news is that the survey found overall happiness among physicians, Lisa Grabl, president of CompHealth, a healthcare staffing company, said in a statement. "We found that many physicians still take great joy in the practice of medicine and discovered areas where administrators and physicians alike can work together to further increase physician happiness," Grabl said.
Clif Knight, senior vice president of education for AAFP, said in a statement that practicing medicine is rewarding, but physicians must find work-life balance. He added that reducing physicians' administrative burden can also help their well-being.
The CompHealth/AAFP survey follows other studies on the topic, though the results have differed. A 2018 Medscape study found that almost two-thirds of doctors were stressed and depressed. A September 2018 JAMA study found that nearly half of resident physicians experience burnout. Another Medscape report published earlier this year found that nearly 44% feel burnout.
A recent study published in Mayo Clinical Proceedings said that about 44% of U.S. physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout in 2017. That was lower than in 2014 (54.4%) and 2011 (45.5%). The report also found that doctors were more satisfied with work-life balance in 2017 than in 2014. However, the percentage is still lower than in 2011. Despite the improved burnout numbers in the study, physicians are still at a higher risk of burnout than people in other industries. They're also less likely to be satisfied about work-life balance, the study found.
Burnout isn't just a concern for physicians' well-being. There's also a quality of care and bottom line impact. An April 2018 study discovered the price tag for physician burnout could cost as much as $17 billion a year.