Emergency medicine doctors top stress league

Emergency medicine doctors come top of the stress league, with around double the reported stress levels of other doctors, reveals a national survey in Emergency Medicine Journal. Nearly one in 10 reported suicidal thoughts.

All 479 emergency medicine consultants across the UK were sent a validated survey to determine levels of psychological distress and depressive symptoms. Respondents were also asked to detail the frequency and ‘stressfulness’ of work stressors.

In all, 350 respondents were able and/or willing to participate in the study. Most were men in their 40s, and working full time.

Almost 45 per cent scored highly for stress. This compares with scores of between 21 and 28 per cent for studies of other UK consultants, and 18 per cent for the general working population.

Almost one in five (18%) had symptoms of depression, with nearly one in 10 (34) entertaining thoughts of suicide. Women were significantly more likely to be depressed than men.

Hours worked by full time consultants were significantly associated with scores for stress. They had worked an average of 55 hours in the NHS the previous week, but the reported tally ranged from 15 to 168 hours. And part time consultants said they had worked between 8 and 117 hours the preceding week.

Almost two thirds of respondents were extremely satisfied with the specialty they had chosen, citing the variety, patient contact, and the ‘adrenaline rush’ among the aspects of the work they particularly enjoyed.

But analysis showed that ‘being overstretched,’ the effect of hours and stress on family life, and lack of recognition were significant stressors, while the effect of long hours, low prestige, and dealing with management were significant factors in depression scores.

The authors conclude that such widespread stress may compromise effectiveness and ultimately persuade doctors to leave the profession. Each year lost of a consultant’s working life costs the NHS £30,000.

Rather than letting the situation continue, they suggest the NHS would do better to “provide employment environments in which doctors can practise effectively without compromising their own health.”

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