Study finds COVID-19 pandemic has pushed physician burnout to an all-time high

September 20, 2022

The rate of physician burnout in the United States increased dramatically during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The researchers found that 2020 marks the end of a six-year period of decline in the overall rate of burnout among physicians. At the end of 2021, after 21 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of physician burnout significantly reached a new high that was higher than previously monitored by researchers. The overall prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians rose to 62.8% in 2021 from 38.2%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the factors 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.

“As the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic are hopefully behind us, there is an urgent need to deal with the doctors who have put their all into our country’s response to COVID-19, too often to the detriment their own well-being,” said Jack Resneck Jr., MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA)

The new research on physician burnout builds on landmark studies conducted at regular intervals between 2011 and 2021 by researchers at the AMA, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine. Together, these studies found that the overall prevalence of burnout among American physicians was 62.8% in 2021, compared to 38.2% in 2020, 43.9% in 2017, 54.4% in 2014, and 45.5% in 2011. Each study has consistently shown that the overall prevalence of burnout among physicians was higher compared to the US workforce.

The sober results demand urgent action to support physicians by removing barriers and burdens that interfere with patient care and prioritizing physician well-being as essential requirements for achieving national health goals.

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