Stress, depression, and burnout are prevalent among physicians due to extensive work hours, lack of work-life balance, patient death, administrative burdens, and more recently, the pandemic. What’s especially concerning is the fact that female physicians face even more institutional and societal obstacles as they navigate the medical field.
Ongoing studies and reports continue to uncover information about the unique challenges women physicians face during their careers. Here are just a few compelling data on the mental wellness of women physicians, and the different factors that affect it.
- High expectations, multiple roles, and work environment are three leading factors that cause stress, depression, and burnout in female physicians. Women face additional issues such as work-home conflicts, experiences of harassment from colleagues and patients, and gender disparity that factors into slower career progression and lower salaries.
- Depression symptoms in women physicians tend to spike during the internship year. During this period, in particular, women struggle to balance work and home responsibilities, as many of them continue taking on the role of primary homemaker and caregiver despite a demanding career.
- Three-fourths of female physicians have suffered from gender-based inequity, according to a 2019 survey.
- 73% of female physicians experienced verbal abuse at the workplace, according to a survey on female specialists and family physicians.
- 49% of women physicians reported experiencing high levels of stress.
- 46% of physicians are more susceptible to death by suicide than females in the general population.
- Almost one out of two female physicians who have children say they have experienced symptoms of mental illness but did not seek mental health support. The overwhelming reason for the lack of help-seeking is the fear of the stigma associated with mental health.
- Over one out of two female physicians are susceptible to at least one mental health issue in their lifetime. Among the different mental concerns, depression has been cited as the most common.
These data underscore the need for concerted efforts to eradicate systemic discrimination against women in the medical field. More importantly, they highlight the urgent need for gender-specific interventions to combat stress, depression, and burnout, and for women physicians to be empowered to seek help for mental health resilience.
- D E Stewart 1, F Ahmad, A M Cheung, B Bergman, D L Dell, “Women physicians and stress”, accessed May 17, 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10746522/
- Constance Guille, MD, Elena Frank, Ph.D., Zhuo Zhao, MS2, et al., Work-Family Conflict and the Sex Difference in Depression Among Training Physicians, December 2017, accessed May 17, 2021, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2659558
- Dante Duarte, MD, PhD1; Mirret M. El-Hagrassy, MD1; Tiago Castro e Couto, MD, PhD2; et al, “Male and Female Physician Suicidality”, March 4, 2020, accessed May 17, 2021, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article- abstract/2762468
- “Gender Pay Disparities and Workplace Discrimination”, 2019 Survey Women in Medicine, accessed May 18, 2021, https://www.merritthawkins.com/trends-and- insights/article/surveys/2019-Survey-of-Women-in-Medicine/