5 Facts About Physician Depression, Burnout, and Suicide

Physicians, including practicing professionals, med students, and other trainees, suffer from depression, burnout, and suicide at much higher rates than the general public.

On average, about 300-400 physicians die by suicide every year in the United States, meaning approximately one physician dies every day due to suicide. Many studies have been conducted to find out why depression, burnout, and suicide afflict physicians in such high numbers, and the following information was discovered:

  • Resident physicians experience rates of depression higher than the general population, which often results in poor patient care and increased occurrences of medical errors.
  • More than 50 percent of physicians experience some type of burnout from their job, citing emotional exhaustion as the most common symptom of burnout.
  • The male physician suicide rate is 1.41 times higher than the suicide rate in the general male population, while the female physician suicide rate is 2.27 times higher than that of the general female population.
  • Depression is a known cause of suicide in both physicians and non-physicians, and physicians are much less likely to seek assistance from mental health professionals than non-physicians.
  • Web-based cognitive behavior therapy has been shown to decrease suicidal ideation among physicians-in-training.

There are a number of resources and suicide prevention services available from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for physicians who struggle with depression and burnout in an effort to combat this epidemic of physician suicides.

AFSP Chief Medical Officer, Christine Moutier, M.D., spoke with McGraw-Hill Education about the mental well-being of medical students and what can be done to help them address mental health issues as they transition into the medical profession.

AFSP, in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, and the ACGME produced After Suicide: A Toolkit for Residency/Fellowship Programs. This toolkit gives advice to program directors and team leaders who must deal with the suicide of one of their students. For more information, please visit afsp.org/physician.

For more information about physician burnout, please download our white paper How Hospitalists Can Avoid Burnout.

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