About 44% of U.S. physicians reported at least one burnout symptom in 2017, a substantial decrease from 2014 when roughly 54% suffered from burnout, according to a new survey from the American Medical Association.
But while reported burnout dropped, the number of doctors who reported feeling depressed rose over the same period. The survey found 41.7% of doctors screened positive for depression, compared with 39.8% in 2014.
The findings, set to be published Friday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, included participation from 5,197 physicians. It's the third edition of the triennial survey that examines burnout among U.S. physicians, and was led by Dr. Tait Shanafelt at Stanford Medicine along with researchers at the AMA and the Mayo Clinic.
While the researchers note the drop in burnout is "encouraging," they add more work is needed to address the problem given the fact that physicians report feeling burned out at much higher levels than the general population.
Along with physicians, 5,198 other U.S. workers were also surveyed. About 28% of the workers surveyed reported burnout in 2017, compared with 44% of physicians.
"The progress demonstrated in today's research suggests that growing national efforts to address physician burnout are on the right track, but more work is needed to achieve meaningful change," AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny said in a news release.
The authors suggest physicians may have reported higher levels of burnout in 2014 because the year was "a particularly challenging time" considering the heavy consolidation activity, continued implementation of electronic health record systems and rises in reporting burden.
The drop in burnout may also be attributed to a groundswell of efforts in the last few years to tackle the issue, the authors added. National efforts to both understand the causes and solutions to burnout have spread in recent years including the formation in 2017 of the National Academy of Medicine's Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, which includes more than 60 organizations. Additionally, more health systems are looking for ways to address the problem within their own organizations.