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Surgeons Suffer From Suicidal Ideation, Burnout

One in 16 surgeons reported suicidal ideation during the previous 12-month period

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A cross-sectional survey of surgeons identified increased rates of suicidal ideation (SI), burnout, and depression, and suggests that surgeons are reluctant to seek professional help, according to a study published in the January issue of Archives of Surgery.

Tait D. Shanafelt, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues examined the prevalence of SI among surgeons. A survey completed anonymously by 7,905 members of the American College of Surgeons asked questions regarding SI, use of mental health resources, validated depression screening, and assessments of burnout and quality of life.

The investigators found that 501 (6.3 percent) participants reported SI during the previous 12-month period. SI was 1.5 to 3.0 times more common among surgeons aged 45 and older compared with the general population. Of those with recent SI, only 130 surgeons sought psychiatric or psychological help; whereas 301 were reluctant to seek help due to fears that it could affect their medical license. Surgeons with recent SI had a statistically significant increase in depressive symptoms and in all domains of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal accomplishment.

"Although one of 16 surgeons reported SI in the previous year, few sought psychiatric/psychological help. Recent suicide ideation among surgeons is strongly related to perceived medical errors, symptoms of depression, and degree of burnout," the authors write.

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