More Than 1 in 4 Anesthesiologists Are Clinically Depressed

Lucy Hicks

February 18, 2022

More than one quarter of anesthesiologists (28%) report being clinically depressed, according to the Medscape Anesthesiologist Physician Lifestyle, Happiness, and Burnout Report 2022.

Nearly half of anesthesiologists (47%) said they were burned-out, similar to physicians across all specialties. The specialties that most frequently reported burnout were emergency medicine (60%) and critical care (59%), while dermatology (33%) and public health and preventive medicine (26%) ranked lowest on the list.

This new report was compiled from an online survey that included more than 13,000 physicians from 29 specialties, of which 6% of respondents were anesthesiologists. Most respondents (61%) were male; 38% were female. The most common age of respondents was 55–64 (31%), followed by 45–54 (25%) and those 65 years or older (20%). The survey was available from June 29, 2021, to September 26, 2021.

Female anesthesiologists more frequently reported burnout compared to their male peers (53% vs 45%). Lack of respect from colleagues (57%) and lack of control in life (54%) were the most common contributors to burnout. Other factors included too many work hours (44%), insufficient pay (31%), and too many bureaucratic tasks (31%). More than half (54%) of anesthesiologists said they were more burned out now than in the first few months of the pandemic, which matched with the proportion of physicians overall (55%).

Reducing work hours (30%) and participating in meditation or other stress-reduction techniques (28%) were the most popular ways of combating burnout, followed by changing their work settlings (21%) and speaking with the hospital administration about productivity pressure (11%). About 6 out of 10 respondents (59%) said that they would be willing to accept a decrease in their salary if that meant a better work-life balance.

Feelings of depression, or "colloquial depression," were common among anesthesiologists, with 62% reporting feeling down, blue, or sad. The proportion of anesthesiologists with clinical depression (28%) was slightly higher than that of physicians across all specialties (24%). More than half (56%) of anesthesiologists said their depression did not affect patient interactions, while 27% said they were easily exasperated with patients. A quarter of respondents (25%) said they were less motivated to take patient notes carefully, 13% reported expressing their frustration in front of patients, and 9% said they made errors that they may not ordinarily have made.

Most anesthesiologists reported being married (81%), and 4% reported living with a partner. In the married group, 82% said their marriage was "very good" or "good," placing anesthesiologists toward the middle of all specialties regarding marital happiness. Allergists and otolaryngologists topped the list (91%), while plastic surgeons ranked last (75%).

Prior to the pandemic, 82% of anesthesiologists reported being "very happy" or "somewhat happy" outside of work, but that proportion has now dropped to 57%. Exercising (68%), spending time with family and friends (67%), and participating in non–work-related hobbies (66%) were the most popular activities to help promote happiness and mental health. Getting enough sleep (45%) and eating healthy (42%) were also common, while just 8% of anesthesiologists said therapy helped maintain their well-being.

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