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Events of the past year have taken a huge toll on the happiness, wellness, and lifestyles of many, but especially those in the healthcare field, including cardiologists.
The newly released Medscape Cardiologist Burnout & Happiness Report 2021 reveals how cardiologists are coping with burnout and trying to maintain personal wellness and how they view their workplaces and their futures amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, most cardiologists (80%) reported being happy outside of work, similar to the percentage (82%) of physicians overall.
But as the pandemic has worn on, feelings have shifted, and there are signs of strain on those in the healthcare field. Now, just over half (55%) of cardiologists say they are happy outside of work, similar to the percentage (58%) of physicians overall.
Perhaps not surprising given the specific challenges of COVID-19, infectious disease physicians, pulmonologists, rheumatologists, and intensivists currently rank lowest in happiness outside of work.
Anxiety About the Future
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of cardiologists report some degree of anxiety about their future, which is about the same percentage as for physicians overall (77%).
This year, the percentage of cardiologists who report experiencing burnout alone or with depressed mood is similar to that in last year’s report (43% vs 44%). About two thirds (60%) of cardiologists say burnout has had at least a moderate impact on their lives; 10% consider the impact so severe that they are thinking of leaving medicine altogether.
Most burned-out cardiologists (84%) said they felt that way even before the pandemic began; for 16%, burnout set in after it started.
The top factor contributing to burnout among cardiologists is too many bureaucratic tasks (52%), followed by lack of respect from administrators/employers, colleagues, or staff (48%), spending too many hours at work (37%), lack of control/autonomy (34%), and increasing computerization of practice (34%).
How do cardiologists cope with burnout? Most exercise (54%), isolate themselves from others (46%), listen to music (32%), or talk with family or friends (32%); 25% drink alcohol, 24% sleep, and around 20% binge eat or eat junk food.
The majority (80%) of depressed and/or burned-out cardiologists don’t plan on seeking professional help; 13% are currently seeking help or plan to do so.
The top reasons for not doing so are feeling that they can deal with the problem without professional help (54%) and that they consider their symptoms not severe enough (44%); 31% say they are too busy, and 16% don’t want to risk disclosing a problem.
Among cardiologists who are burned out, depressed, or both, 10% have had thoughts of suicide, and 3% have attempted suicide (slightly higher than physicians overall, at 1%); 82% of cardiologists did not have suicidal thoughts or actions, and 4% preferred not to answer this question.
Striving for Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is the most pressing workplace issue for 50% of cardiologists, as it is for nearly all physicians surveyed; 52% of cardiologists would sacrifice some of their salary for better work-life balance, a somewhat greater percentage than that of physicians overall (47%).
Other top workplace concerns for cardiologists are compensation (19%), combining parenthood and work (8%), and career development (7%).
Forty-three percent of cardiologists take 3 to 4 weeks of vacation each year; 26% take 5 or more weeks. These percentages have not changed from last year’s report.
About one third (32%) of cardiologists generally make time to focus on their own well-being, roughly the same as all physicians (35%).
About three quarters (77%) of cardiologists exercise two or more times per week, compared with 70% of physicians overall; 15% of cardiologists exercise every day, and only 6% don’t exercise at all.
Nearly half (48%) of cardiologists are currently trying to lose weight; 35% are trying to maintain their current weight.
About a quarter (23%) of cardiologists have five or more drinks per week. The same percentage said they do not drink at all.
Most cardiologists are currently in a committed relationship, with 90% either married or living with a partner; 86% say their marriages are good. Among cardiologists who are married or living with a partner, nearly half (49%) are with someone in the medical field.
BMW and Toyota are among the most popular cars among cardiologists. Physicians overall favor Toyota, Honda, and BMW.
Two thirds (66%) of cardiologists spend up to 10 hours per week online for personal use; 79% spend this amount of time online each week for work.
It’s likely that time spent online for work will only increase, given the pandemic-fueled surge in telemedicine. Yet even when their personal and professional internet use are combined, cardiologists, on average, spend far less time online than the nearly 7 hours per day of the average internet user, according to recent data.
Findings from Medscape’s latest happiness, wellness, and lifestyle survey are based on 12,339 Medscape member physicians practicing in the United States who completed an online survey conducted between August 30 and November 5, 2020.
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