Medical Technology

Pandemic Weighting on Docs”Happiness Outside of Work: Survey

One of the unexpected outcomes of the pandemic is that many people are beginning to review their priorities and lifestyles. Physicians are not the only ones to be affected.

This year’s Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report surveyed more than 10,000 physicians across 29 specialties on how they are prioritizing wellness, work-life balance, and their family life in this difficult period.

Pets, Prayer, and Partners

The pandemic has taken a toll on doctors outside of work as well as working. Eight in ten physicians (82 percent of men, 80% of women) said they were happy in their personal lives prior to the pandemic. This is nearly the same percentage as last year’s survey.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents (59 percent) reported being “somewhat” to “very” content outside of work. While the pandemic has made life tough for everyone, healthcare professionals face particular stress even beyond work. Wayne M. Sotile PhD, founder and CEO of the Center for Physician Resilience says he has counseled doctors who saw COVID-related suffering at work, only to return home to an acquaintance who believed that the pandemic was not real.

Still, physicians said that spending time with those they cherish and participating in their hobbies helps people stay content. “Spending time with pets” and “religious practice/prayer” were common “other” responses to the question, “What do you do to ensure happiness and good mental health?” Seven out of 10 doctors reported having some form of spiritual or religious beliefs.

The majority of doctors (83%) are either married, or live with a partner. Male doctors have surpassed their female counterparts (89% vs. 75%). Among married physicians, 8 in 10 physicians said that their union is “good” or “very excellent.” This could be due to the pandemic. Sotile claims that he’s heard doctors say that they’ve been more connected with their families in the last 18 months. Specialists with the highest rates of happy marriages were otolaryngologists as well as immunologists (both 91%), followed closely by dermatologists, rheumatologists, and nephrologists (all 90%).

When it comes to doctors who have to balance a medical career and parenthood female physicians were more likely to feel stressed than male physicians (48% vs 29 percent). Nicole A. Sparks, MD an obstetrician/gynecologist and a lifestyle and health blogger, mentions the lack of support for her kids as a source of stress. She says that her children notice when she isn’t there to help them with their homework, make their dinner, or read bedtime stories. She says that mom guilt can begin to creep in when she misses important events.

The balance between work and family is an important, if elusive, goal for physicians, and not just females. Sixty percent (of female doctors) and 53% (of male doctors) said they would accept less pay in exchange for more time and more balance between their work and personal life. One fifth of all doctors take five weeks or more of vacation per year.

Looking for a balanced life?

Alexis Polles MD, medical director of the Professionals Resource Network, stresses the importance to take time for your health and well-being. “When we collaborate with professionals who have problems with mental health issues or substance abuse and addiction, they are often unable to live a healthy, balanced life,” she says. They are often workaholics and do not take care of their personal needs.

A small percentage of doctors are committed to self-care. About a third indicate that they spend “always” or a majority of their time focusing on their own health and well-being. But of those who do, men (38 percent) are more likely than females (27 percent) to spend enough time on their own health and wellness. Polles adds that exercising after shifts can help doctors better make the transition from their professional to their personal life. While doctors didn’t report how often they exercised about a third of them reported that they exercised at least four times a week. Weight loss is a problem as well, with 49% of male and 55% of female doctors who said they are currently working to lose weight.

For doctors who drink alcohol, around one-third have three or more drinks each week. (The CDC defines “heavy drinking” as drinking 15 or more drinks per week for men , and eight drinks or more per week for women.)

Of the respondents 92% of respondents declare that they do not use cannabidiol or cannabis, but only 4 percent of respondents stated they would consume at least one of these substances if they were to become legal in their state.

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