70% of burned out, depressed radiologists haven't sought help and don't plan to

About 7 in 10 radiologists who are depressed and/or burned out plan to deal with the distress on their own, according to a new survey. It’s a slight uptick from figures recorded in last year’s report. 

Medscape queried more than 15,000 physicians across 29 specialties for their annual Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report—450 of whom were radiologists. The imaging-specific edition, released Feb. 13, determined that 46% of rads are burned out, slightly higher than the 41% mark seen in physicians overall.

The new results indicate there’s been a rise in the proportion of imaging physicians who have not sought help and have no plans to do so. Seventy percent claimed this description fit their mindset, compared to the 67% who fell into that category in Medscape’s 2019 findings. The next largest group (11%) preferred not to answer the question in this year’s survey; 9% were currently looking for professional help; and 8% said they had been under care in the past.

So what is causing the apprehension? According to survey respondents, most believe their symptoms aren’t severe enough (50%) and another 49% claim they can handle the issue themselves. (Physicians were allowed to choose more than one answer.)

A number of studies have explored how to best address this epidemic, and workplace wellness programs—which have grown in popularity—have been pushed as one possible solution. But 44% of radiologists indicated they were unlikely to participate, if offered the chance. Another 31% said they would likely take up that offer, and 26% were undecided. Notably, 24% of imaging physicians responded that they would not participate in a workplace program in the 2019 survey, and 10% said the opposite.

Compared to the 29 other physician specialties, radiologists’ happiness levels rounded out the bottom of the pack. About 23% indicated they were pleased to be at work, tying a few other specialties including family medicine, gastroenterology, nephrology, critical care and diabetes and endocrinology. Dermatologists were most happy (41%) and neurology workers were most miserable (18%).

Half of respondents in the survey said “spending too many hours at work” is most responsible for their burnout, followed by a lack of respect from administrators, employers, colleagues or staff (44%). Feeling like “just a cog in a wheel” (37%) and too many bureaucratic tasks (31%) also ranked high.

The 2020 survey included 15,181 physicians polled from June 25 through Sept. 19, 2019.