Bias and Burnout: Evil Twins

Carol Peckham


January 12, 2016

In This Article

Other Topics in the Lifestyle Survey

Physicians and Happiness

This year's lifestyle survey, as did previous iterations, asked whether physicians were happy at home or at work, and results were ranked by the percentages of those who chose "very happy" or "extremely happy" in both settings.

Happy at work. Gender differences were evident in responses to questions about happiness at work, with only 26% of all women reporting that they were happy in their work environment compared with one third of men. As noted above, more women than men also report burnout (55% vs 46%), which could certainly contribute to the happiness disparity in the workplace.

Among specialists and primary care physicians who said they were either very or extremely happy at work, dermatologists and ophthalmologists were the most content (39% and 38%, respectively). Dermatologists and ophthalmologists were also the happiest at work in the 2014 Medscape survey, but the percentages that year (53% and 46%, respectively) were much higher than those reported this year.

The least happy at work this year were internists and intensivists (24% and 25%, respectively). Bottom of the list in 2014 were family and emergency medicine physicians (both 36%), followed by internists at 37%. These low percentages, however, are still higher than those reported by nearly all physicians this year, including those toward the top of the scale.

Happy at home. Male and female physicians reported the same happiness levels at home (60% and 59%, respectively),

When looking at all physicians, 68% of nephrologists reported that they were happy at home, followed by dermatologists (66%) and pulmonologists (65%). In the 2014 survey, dermatologists were most likely to report that they were happy at home (70%)—a higher percentage than that among the physicians most likely to report happiness outside of work this year. The 2016 report documents a small but notable decrease in percentages of respondents describing themselves as happy outside of work for almost all physician specialties. In support of these results, a major recent survey of US physicians reported a decrease in satisfaction with work/life balance between 2011 and 2014, from 48.5% to 40.9%.[1]

Physicians and Savings

Men fare slightly better than women in their savings and debt, according to the Medscape survey. Sixty-three percent of male vs 58% of female physicians report that they have adequate savings or more, and no debt. Thirty-seven percent of female and one third of male physicians report minimal savings, unmanageable debt, or both.

In a 2015 Medscape survey on debt and net worth, 61% of physicians responded that they live within their means and have little debt, and 24% even live below their means. Nevertheless in this survey, only 52% of male physicians and 47% of their female peers believe their income and assets are sufficient to meet their needs. About one third of both men and women (33% and 35%, respectively) say that their assets aren't enough right now, but they expect them to improve; 15% of men and 19% of women have no hope they will ever be sufficient.

Physicians and Healthy Lifestyle

Physicians and exercise. The most active physicians (those who exercise at least twice a week) are dermatologists (72%), orthopedists (69%), and ophthalmologists (68%). It is perhaps not a coincidence that dermatologists and ophthalmologists are also the happiest physicians at work. The least active are psychiatrists (43%) and endocrinologists (50%).

Physicians and weight. When looking at physicians who reported that they were overweight to obese, of interest, dermatologists and ophthalmologists reported the lowest rates of overweight (23% and 28%, respectively), and they also had the highest happiness and exercise percentages. The heaviest physicians are pulmonologists (51%), family physicians (49%), and emergency medicine physicians (47%).


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