Physician depression is definitely linked with physician suicide. Up to 400 physicians take their lives each year in the United States according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which about one a day. Physicians may have a much higher suicide rate than others in the general population due to the fact that physicians know more about the means that would be effective in taking a life and have better access to the kind of drugs that could be used to accomplish this. It may be that these statistics are skewed because a physician’s colleagues may want to cover up their real cause of death, so the rate of physician suicide could be even higher.
Across all populations, it’s fair to say that suicide is usually due to depression that has either gone untreated or if there was treatment, it was sadly lacking. Those in the medical profession suffer from depression as often as people in the general population. It is estimated that 18% of women and 12% of men are dealing with depression in the U.S.
However, physician depression seems to affect medical students and residents even more, with studies showing that 15% to 30% are screening positive for symptoms of depression. An Australian survey conducted in 2011 on 50,000 physicians and medical students revealed a substantial rise in the incidence of extreme psychological distress and a 200% rise in incidences of suicidal ideation among physicians when compared to people in the general population.
Statistics Related to Physician Suicide
There are approximately 300 to 400 physician suicides each year in the U.S. However, as a result of educational campaigns targeting physicians who smoke, there was a marked decrease of 40% to 60% in smoking-related illnesses among physicians. The reason the number of physician suicides is not declining may be because there has been little to no attention given to this issue.
Physician depression is known to be a huge risk factor for physician suicide, along with alcohol and/or drug abuse and bipolar disorder. Interestingly, there really is no evidence that the stressors related to work are associated with higher rates of suicide among physicians. But, medical students do suffer from 15% to 30% higher rates of depression than people in the general population.
What may be adding to the higher completion rate of physician suicides as compared to the number of attempts could be their deeper knowledge of various drugs and their lethality, as well as having easy access to the means to successfully complete their suicide.
Statistics Associated to Gender:
Deaths by suicide in the U.S. are 250% to 400% higher when it comes to female physicians as compared to women working in other professions. Female physicians suffer from major depression at a higher rate than women of the same age with doctorate degrees.
For male physicians in the U.S., suicide deaths are 70% higher when you compare them to men working in other professions. Men in the general population commit suicide four times as often as females, yet female physicians have a suicide rate equal to that of male physicians.
Among physicians who actually do take their lives, the most commonly found psychiatric diagnoses fall within the category of affective disorders, specifically bipolar disorder and depression, substance abuse, and alcoholism. The most common methods of physician suicide are overdosing on lethal drugs and/or using firearms.
Physician depression occurs more often than the occurrence of depression among people in the general population, but like substance abuse, treatment is more successful among physicians than for regular folks. The reason for this has to do with the strong motivation physicians have to pursue their professional calling, as this is what gives them their sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
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