Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Physician suicide

Physicians in the United States have a significantly higher suicide rate than the general population
The combined results of 25 studies suggest that the suicide rate among male doctors is 40 percent higher than that among men in general, whereas the rate among female doctors is 130 percent higher than that among women in general.
In the general populations, females are more likely to attempt suicide, but males are more likely to succeed since they generally choose more effective methods (e.g. shooting themselves in the head). A significant reason for the increase is that physicians, and female physicians in particular, are much more likely to be successful when they attempt suicide, probably because they have access to drugs and knowledge about how to use them more effectively.

As the NEJM Perspective the quote comes from points out, physicians with mental illnesses such as depression or substance abuse problems are probably reluctant to seek help for fear of jeopardizing their licensure, which is, of course, crazy.


At 11:07 AM, Blogger ollie said...

So, is this due to:

1) long hours?

2) high stress? After all, if I make a mistake, a referee rejects my paper, or the one student in the class who can follow what I am doing points out my error. No one gets sick or dies.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Dr. Andy said...

The hours certainly don't help. I think more than the hours is that the hours can lead to isolation from the non-hospital world. So when you do have free time you may not have anyone to enjoy it with (I was married with kids through residency which was hard on my marriage and kids but helped me a lot).

Few decisions in medicine are truly life and death, but for some, the stress that the wrong choice could be can be a bit overwhelming.


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