More Canadian physicians reported burnout as suicide in past year: CMA poll – National

More Canadian doctors and healthcare professionals have reported burnout and considered suicide in the past year compared to pre-COVID, according to a new national survey.

The survey conducted by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) from October 13 to December 13, 2021, of 4,121 physicians and medical learners, indicates that over the past 12 months, more than half of respondents said they had felt symptoms of burnout – 1.7 times higher than four years ago.

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Other psychological factors, apart from burnout, where there have been « alarming increases », include rates of positive screening for depression and recent suicidal « ideas », according to the report released Thursday.

The survey shows that half of 4,121 respondents tested positive for depression, an increase of 1.4 times or 13 percentage points from 2017. And recent suicidal ideation, within the last 12 months, were reported by 14% of respondents, an increase of 1.5 times or five percentage points since 2017.

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“Heavy workloads, demanding training and practice standards, and complex practice environments are just some of the factors that can put any physician at higher risk for personal and professional dissatisfaction, burnout and depression,” the CMA said in its investigative report.

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Key findings from the study reveal that many subgroups within the medical field experience significantly higher burnout, including medical residents, those under 35, those who identify as female, those who practice ages six to 10, those caring for a child and/or parent or family member at home, people with disabilities, and people working in a small town/rural or isolated/remote area.

According to the report, women are 59% more likely to suffer from burnout than 43% of men. The increase in burnout since 2017 is much higher for women, with 26 percentage points more than in 2017 compared to 14 percentage points for men.

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Respondents under the age of 54 (61%) are also significantly more likely to experience burnout than those aged 55 and over (38%), the report adds.

For respondents practicing in small towns (58%) or isolated/remote areas (60%), reports of burnout were higher than those in urban/suburban areas (51%).

« It increased by 25 percentage points among respondents in small towns/rural areas and doubled, increasing by 30 percentage points, among respondents in isolated/remote areas, » the report said.

According to the report, « while resident physicians were more likely to experience burnout, screen for depression, and report recent suicidal ideation in the pre-pandemic period…practicing physicians saw percentage increases (burnout, depression and suicidal ideation) compared to pre-pandemic levels (2017)”.

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Social isolation, uncertainty about the future, and increased family obligations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have also contributed to the burnout of some physicians.

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The report shows that the likelihood of physicians reducing clinical work hours in future years is higher among those who reported suffering from depression, anxiety and low professional fulfillment. Half of respondents plan to reduce or change their clinical work hours in the next 24 months, according to the report.

“While a growing shortage of doctors was certainly an issue before the pandemic, the cost of increased burnout in the form of early retirements and reduced clinical hours due to the pandemic could be substantial in the years to come. come, » the report said.

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The report says there is a « silver lining in the results », with COVID-19 causing a « culture shift » towards prioritizing well-being.

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This is seen in younger physicians, such as medical residents and those under 25, who report prioritizing their personal well-being and seeking help to support their well-being, « perhaps an indication declining stigma associated with seeking mental health support, » the report said.

Some of those at higher risk of psychological distress, such as women, also have access to it. Nonetheless, the report says there are still significant hurdles to overcome in terms of improving access, addressing stigma, and emphasizing the need to seek out wellness supports.

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« For some doctors, stigma and shame (in men and older people), or the belief that things aren’t serious enough to need help (in women), may prevent them from seeking help. “, says the report.

The survey also shows that confidentiality is often cited as the reason why many doctors do not have access to support services. This is particularly the case for young physicians and those practicing in small towns, rural areas, and isolated and remote areas. They worry about the potential damage to their careers.

“Their geographic location and the size of the community in which they practice may mean that even at the best of times, they lack some of the social connections and wellness supports that physicians practicing in urban areas can more easily tap into. “, says the report.

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« With limited staff in these areas, it can also be difficult to take the time to prioritize their well-being. »

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