Doctors and Happiness
After an extensive search through industry-related websites and media platforms, details on whether surgeons have higher or lower levels of happiness than people who are not doctors because they see illness and death on a daily basis do not appear to be available in the public domain. However, the research team was able to gather valuable insights about the happiness of physicians and surgeons in and out of work.
- Overall, a majority of physicians are happy outside of work. According to the Medscape Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2019, 12% of physicians are extremely happy, 40% very happy and 25% somewhat happy outside of work. Three percent are extremely unhappy.
- The top three physician specialties that are the happiest outside of work are rheumatology (65%), otolaryngology (60%), and diabetes and endocrinology (59%).
- According to the report, otolaryngology, urology, and plastic surgery, which are surgical subspecialties, scored highly when it came to happiness outside of work. A primary reason is that they do not deal with urgent pathologies such as the ones orthopedic and neurosurgeons face.
- The Medscape General Surgeon Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2019 showed that only 27% of general surgeons are happy at work. On the other hand, 57% of general surgeons are happy outside of work.
- About 15% of physicians have experienced depression with 12% noting that they have been colloquially depressed and 3% clinically depressed. Work is noted as a major contributor to their depression.
- The happiness of physicians in and outside of work is largely determined by the health of the patient population. A healthy, happy patient population is easier to work with compared to one that is unhealthy. In addition, immediate outcomes and improvement of patients’ conditions are also rewarding.
- Physicians are happier when they help patients through rapidly treatable conditions or conditions compared to dealing with life-threatening ones such as congestive heart failure or cancer. For instance, cardiology is a specialty that ranked low (26 out of 29) since it mostly deals with older patients on average who have several comorbidities, making it difficult for physicians to witness measurable improvements while treating them.
- It is noteworthy that “doctors are so much happier outside of work than at work.” One of the primary reasons is the increase in burnout as a result of regulations that have led to more charting, which leaves limited time for interacting with patients.
After an extensive search, we were unable to determine if surgeons have high or lower levels of happiness than people who are not doctors because they see illness and death on a daily basis. We first attempted to look at industry sites such as Medscape, Fierce Healthcare, and CompHealth for articles are reports but did not find any that answered the question. Instead, the sites highlighted the types of specialties that were happy without citing the determinants of their happiness while others focused on their satisfaction levels. We then attempted to expand the scope and look at physicians’ happiness but we found limited information that did not compare their levels of happiness with other people or professions and did not extensively explain the reasons for their happiness. For these reasons we concluded that the requested information is not available in the public domain.