New research has revealed that the rate of suicide among doctors is higher than in any other profession, with one doctor committing suicide in the U.S. every day. The number of physician suicides is more than twice that of the general population, with 28 to 40 per 100,000.
Study researcher Deepika Tanwar, MD, of the psychiatric program at Harlem Hospital Center in New York, said doctors who die by suicide often have untreated or undertreated depression or other mental illnesses. Researchers found that many of the physicians who committed suicide suffered from mood disorders, alcoholism and substance abuse. The findings were presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
The investigation was conducted using MEDLINE and PubMed, where the researchers examined studies of doctor suicide that included articles published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 10 years.
According to Web MD, “One study showed that depression affects an estimated 12% of male doctors and up to 19.5% of female doctors, a rate similar to the general population. Depression is more common in medical students and residents. About 15% to 30% have symptoms of depression.”
Researchers noted that mood disorders among health care professionals were an international phenomena, with studies from Finland, Norway, Australia, Singapore, China, and elsewhere having finding an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation among medical students and health care professionals.
The most common ways that physicians committed suicide were by poisoning or hanging, the study revealed. Since doctors have knowledge of and access to potentially lethal substances, they are more likely to complete a suicide attempt.
Findings also indicated that, of all medical specialties, psychiatry is near the top when it comes to suicide rates.
Beth Brodsky, PhD, associate clinical professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University and the Irving Medical Center, New York, said that the high rate of suicide among doctors is “alarming,” yet not surprising, considering the stress physicians face.
Brodsky noted that the stress begins in medical school and continues in residency with the high demands, competitiveness, long hours, and lack of sleep, which may contribute to substance abuse. The stress is magnified by dwindling healthcare resources and residency positions. Following graduation, medical students enter the profession, where they encounter different but equally challenging stressors.