September 20, 2022
The burnout rate among physicians in the United States spiked dramatically during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a newly published study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers found that 2020 marked the end of a six-year period of decline in the overall rate of work-induced burnout among physicians. By the end of 2021, after 21-months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the physician burnout rate dramatically spiked to a new height that was greater than previously monitored by researchers. The overall prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians jumped to 62.8% in 2021, compared with 38.2%.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the drivers of physician burnout. Research has shown that due to COVID-related stress, 1 in 5 physicians intend to leave their current practice within 2 years.
“While the worst days of COVID-19 pandemic are hopefully behind us, there is an urgent need to attend to physicians who put everything into our nation’s response to COVID-19, too often at the expense of their own well-being,” said American Medical Association (AMA) President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.
The new physician burnout research builds on landmark studies conducted at regular intervals between 2011 and 2021 by researchers from AMA, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine. Together, these studies found the overall prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians was 62.8% in 2021 compared with 38.2% in 2020, 43.9% in 2017, 54.4% in 2014, and 45.5% in 2011. Each study consistently demonstrated that the overall prevalence of occupational burnout among physicians were higher relative to the U.S. workforce.
The sober findings demand urgent action to support physicians by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care, and prioritizing physician well-being as essential requirements to achieving national health goals.
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