Lifestyle and Burnout: A Bad Marriage

Carol Peckham


March 27, 2013

In This Article

Burnout in Men vs Women

The percentage of burned-out female physicians (45%) is higher than that of male physicians (37%). The standard explanation is that women are more conflicted between home and work, which one might expect to be most intense for those working in primary care. A surprising finding in the Medscape survey was that the lowest rates of female burnout (although still high) were in the generalist specialties: general surgery (43%), emergency medicine (50%), internal medicine (50%), and family medicine (51%). The lowest rate was seen in gastroenterology (37%). The highest burnout rates in women were among dermatologists (62%), psychiatrists (62%), and pediatricians (61%). See Figure 3.

Figure 3. Burnout rates in female and male physicians.

In a 2000 survey on the working lives of female physicians,[23] the women surveyed said that they faced a more difficult patient mix, more time pressure in patient examinations, and a 60% greater chance of burnout compared with their male counterparts. In the conclusion of the study, the authors wrote that "greater burnout in female physicians may result from structured but implicitly different gender-related work expectations that come from a variety of important sources, such as patients, physician colleagues, administrators, or nonphysician coworkers. These expectations may work in such a way as to be built into the job of being a woman doctor. In effect, the extra stress arises from the greater time and effort being expected of them to communicate with patients and address psychosocial and health maintenance issues, rather than or in addition to the issues related to family-work conflicts."