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55% of Physicians Know a Colleague Who Considered, Attempted, or Died by Suicide

Aug 5, 2021, 09:44 AM by MSDC Staff
The Physicians Foundation research provides clear evidence the pandemic accelerated physician burnout and decrease in mental health.


A new study released by the Physicians Foundation shows grim statistics on how common it is for physicians to be aware of suicide among colleagues.

The 2021 Survey of American Physicians, COVID-19 Impact Edition has numerous examples of how the pandemic has accelerated the mental and behavioral toll on the physician community. During their career, according to the study, over half (55%) of surveyed physicians shared that they knew of a colleague who died by, considered, or attempted suicide. Nearly one-fifth of those surveyed know someone who considered, attempted, or died by suicide since the start of the pandemic.

“Over the past year, the pandemic has shone a light on a problem that physicians have always faced: the stigma surrounding accessing mental health support and services for fear of looking weak or believing they will lose their license and credentials,” said Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation. 

The survey has revealed other eye-opening data, including:

  • 61% of physicians surveyed reported experiencing feelings of burnout, but only 14% sought medical attention for mental health symptoms. 
  • 8% of physicians indicated they increased their use of medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs weekly as a result of the pandemic
  • A significantly larger proportion of younger (64%) and female (69%) physicians reported frequently feeling burnout as compared to older (59%) and male (57%) physicians. 
  • Physicians who were employed by hospitals or health systems experienced more frequent feelings of burnout (64%) as compared to independent physicians (56%).
  • Nearly 8 in 10 physicians indicated they experienced changes to their practice or employment as a result of COVID-19. 
  • Almost half of physicians (49%) reported a reduction in income while 32% reported a reduction in staff as a result of the pandemic.
  • Nearly 70% of physicians indicated they anticipate continuing the use of telehealth in their ongoing practice. 

You can read the survey results here and the accompanying press release here.

DC physicians needing to speak to someone about the impact of the pandemic on their career or life can come to MSDC for confidential, peer-driven help. Visit our HPP coaching/psychologist page or our Physician Health Program page.