Have there been any studies conducted on mortality of family clinicians? Do they die younger than most people? I guess I am asking whether the day-to-day strain of looking after the well-being of their patients takes a toll on the health of primary-care clinicians.
—Felix N. Chien, DO, Newport Beach, Calif.
Overall, it has been found that clinicians have healthier lifestyles and generally live longer than the population at large. The strain you refer to does take its toll on our profession, however. Clinicians have a higher rate of depression than non-clinicians as well as a much higher rate of suicide, beginning in medical school and continuing throughout their lives. A meta-analysis of 25 studies by Schernhammer et al found that the suicide rate among male doctors is 40% higher than among men in general, whereas the rate among female doctors is 130% higher than among women in general (Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161:2295-2302). In another paper, Schernhammer suggests possible reasons for this finding, including a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders among clinicians than in the general population; drug abuse and alcoholism; the professional burden carried by doctors; the tendency by clinicians to neglect their own need for psychiatric, emotional, or medical help; stress, and burnout (N Engl J Med. 2005;352:2473-2476). I could not find any specific literature on primary-care clinicians, but I’m hoping the satisfaction we receive from following our patients throughout their lives can offset the pressures that doing so places on ours.
—Susan Kashaf, MD, MPH (116-17)