Are Doctors Silently Suffering From Depression?

When we were young, most of us  dreamed of one day becoming a doctor. As years passed, we’ve come to a realization that becoming a doctor is not easy. Imagine spending 11-14 years of medical school on top of the years spent for K-12. We could hardly think of the long hours spent on studying and residency practice of medical students. 

With that in mind, we expect doctors to be at the top of their health both physically and mentally. However, like all human beings, they are susceptible to physical and psychological exhaustion. In fact, one doctor commits suicide in the United States every day. The highest incidence of suicide and depression in any profession. 

In addition, a stigma on depression among doctors, medical students, and other health workers is widespread. Therefore, making it difficult for them to speak out or seek treatment if they are suffering from anxiety and having bouts of depressive symptoms. 

Depression Among Physicians

An article published on WebMD states that, an estimated 12% male doctors and 19.5% female doctors are afflicted with depression. Depression among medical students and practicing physicians are prevalent and the stigma over depression suppresses any attempts of conducting an intensive study on the matter. Therefore, makes it difficult to determine the exact cause of the problems being experienced by medical practitioners.

Contributing Factors To Their Depression 

Pin pointing the cause of someone’s depression is difficult. However, studies on depression are inclined towards a general conclusion of contributing factors such as; 

  1. Long work hours – the average work week for most physicians are 40-60 hours per week and 25% of physicians work between 61-80 hours per week. 
  1. Lack of sleep – long working hours is the proximate cause of sleep deprivation. That’s why sleep deprivation slows the cognitive function of a persons brain and is regarded as one of the causes of depression. 
  1. Growing workload and complexity of the job – a doctors daily workload isn’t just attending to patients, they also have administrative tasks to do such as keeping records, preparing and studying for changes on medical processes. As the field of medicine is a continually changing process. Doctors are obliged to be up to date on those current advancements. Leaving little time for themselves by stretching their working hours to their maximum limit. 
  1. Little or no work-life balance – the culmination of the three points mentioned above, with long working hours, sleep deprivation, and a growing workload resulting in little to no work-life balance. 

How Can We Help? 

The pandemic hasshown that our healthcare system can be overwhelmed by an influx of patients during a health crisis and numerous calamities. Since it began, our doctors had been on the frontline for the fight against COVID-19. Many had given up their own lives to save the lives of their patients and a majority are working long hours to meet the demand. 

In my opinion, we can alleviate the problems they are facing today and tomorrow. First, increasing the number of support staff for doctors and making them focus more on their patients rather than their administrative tasks. This can be done by outsourcing a medical staff such as hiring virtual nurses, virtual medical assistants, and many more. 

They will manage repetitive and time-consuming administrative tasks for doctors. This simple solution will help a doctor cut down his working hours and hopefully have a peace of mind. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, depression is a silent killer and those who are afflicted by it should get immediate treatment. Like other people, doctors too suffer from this deadly mental illness. At the end of the day, we need doctors and our doctors need us to help them.



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