From the Journals

Anxiety, depression, burnout higher in physician mothers caring for others at home



Physicians who are also mothers have a higher risk of burnout and mood and anxiety disorders if they are also caring for someone with a serious illness or disability outside of work, according to a cross-sectional survey reported in a letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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“Our findings highlight the additional caregiving responsibilities of some women physicians and the potential consequences of these additional responsibilities for their behavioral health and careers,” wrote Veronica Yank, MD, of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues.

“To reduce burnout and improve workforce retention, health care systems should develop new approaches to identify and address the needs of these physician mothers,” they wrote.

The researchers used data from a June-July 2016 online survey of respondents from the Physicians Moms Group online community. Approximately 16,059 members saw the posting for the survey, and 5,613 United States–based mothers participated.

Among the questions was one on non–work related caregiving responsibilities that asked whether the respondent provided “regular care or assistance to a friend or family member with a serious health problem, long-term illness or disability” during the last year. Other questions assessed alcohol and drug use, history of a mood or anxiety disorder, career satisfaction and burnout.

Among the 16.4% of respondents who had additional caregiving responsibilities outside of work for someone chronically or seriously ill or disabled, nearly half (48.3%) said they cared for ill parents, 16.9% for children or infants, 7.7% for a partner, and 28.6% for another relative. In addition, 16.7% of respondents had such caregiving responsibilities for more than one person.

The women with these extra caregiving responsibilities were 21% more likely to have a mood or anxiety disorder (adjusted relative risk, 1.21; P = .02) and 25% more likely to report burnout (aRR, 1.25; P = .007), compared with those who did not have such extra responsibilities.

There were no significant differences, however, on rates of career satisfaction, risky drinking behaviors, or substance abuse between physician mothers who did have additional caregiving responsibilities and those who did not.

Among the study’s limitations were its cross-sectional nature, use of a convenience sample that may not be generalizable or representative, and lack of data on fathers or non-parent physicians for comparison.

SOURCE: Yank V et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2019 Jan 28. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.6411.

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