This site is intended for health professionals only

More than eight in 10 doctors affected by mental health issues

Around 85% of doctors have experienced mental health issues in their careers while 13% have even had suicidal feelings, a new survey has revealed.

The survey by the Medical Protection Society of more than 600 UK members found that 75% of doctors had experienced stress while 49% had suffered with anxiety and 36% had been affected by low self-esteem. 

It comes after Pulse’s survey of 2,230 GPs this year found that 50% of GPs are at high risk of burnout.

The MPS said that rising patient expectations and fewer resources are affecting doctors’ mental health.

Its key findings included:

  • One in three (32%) doctors has been hit by depression during their medical career.
  • 76% of doctors said heavy workload had a high or moderate impact on their mental health, and 70% cited long working hours.
  • High levels of regulation and scrutiny affected half (54%) of respondents’ mental health.
  • Experience of a negligence claim had an impact on a quarter (24%) of them. 
  • 36% think their mental health issues impact on their empathy towards patients.
  • It also found that four in 10 doctors did not discuss their issues with anyone.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medicolegal adviser at MPS, said: ‘Doctors have to make difficult decisions daily, alongside rising patient expectations and fewer resources. These challenges are impacting on doctors’ emotional health, and yet so few are seeking support – in some cases due to the perceived stigma attached to mental health issues. ‘

The MPS points out that seeking help for mental health issues will not automatically lead to a referral to the General Medical Council or put careers at risk.

Pulse launched its Battling Burnout campaign in 2013, and succeeded in drawing a commitment from NHS England that it would set up an occupational health service for GPs.

However, it has failed to carry out this commitment, and Pulse has since learned that other areas are cutting their services.

The GMC this week outlined a number of core principles needed to develop a national support service for doctors, following last year’s review into doctors who have died while under investigation by the regulator.