More than eight in 10 doctors experience mental health issues during career

More than eight out of 10 UK doctors have experienced mental health issues during their career, with the vast majority reporting heavy workload and long working hours as key contributing factors.

Stress: majority of doctors experience mental health issues during their careeer (Photo: JH Lancy)
Stress: majority of doctors experience mental health issues during their careeer (Photo: JH Lancy)

The survey of more than 600 UK doctors, carried out by medico-legal organisation the Medical Protection Society (MPS), found that 85% of doctors reported experiencing mental health issues at some point in their career.

A total of 32% said they had experienced depression during their medical career, while 13% had experienced suicidal thoughts.

Three quarters (75%) said they had suffered from stress, 49% anxiety and 36% from low self-esteem.

GP workload

The results come as the GMC and leading health professionals agreed that a confidential national support service should be established to help doctors with mental health or drug addiction problems.

Respondents to the MPS survey mainly cited heavy workload (75%) and long working hours (70%) as the main drivers behind mental health issues they had experienced.

Over half (54%) said the high levels of scrutiny and regulation were affecting their mental health.

MPS medico-legal advisor Dr Pallavi Bradshaw urged doctors to seek help ‘as soon as they experience mental health difficulties’.

GP mental health

‘Being a doctor is not only physically and intellectually demanding, but also emotionally draining,’ she 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.

‘Doctors help their patients with mental health problems but they often suffer alone. The experience can be isolating and can have a negative impact on professional confidence. It is important that doctors know that seeking help will not automatically lead to a referral to the GMC or put their careers at risk.’

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