Public release date: 1-Sep-2008
Tip sheet for Sept. 2, 2008, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine
Death by suicide is a major occupational hazard for physicians. Male and female physicians have a 40 percent and 130 percent higher suicide rate, respectively, than the general population.
This survey of 4,287 students at seven medical schools revealed that many U.S. medical students think about suicide, suggesting that physicians’ increased risk for suicide may begin in medical school. Both personal distress and professional distress, or “burnout” were linked to thinking about suicide. While the relationship between depression and suicide is well-recognized, the association between burnout and thinking about suicide has not been previously reported. Burnout is common among medical students, and is associated with a two- to three-fold increased risk of thinking about suicide. In the study, 26 percent of burned out students recovered within the following year, indicating that burnout is reversible. Their risk for suicidal thoughts returned to normal.
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