Psychiatric Morbidity and Burnout in the Medical Profession: An Italian Study of General Practitioners and Hospital Physicians

Psychother Psychosom. Nov-Dec 2000;69(6):329-34. doi: 10.1159/000012416.


Background: Burnout and psychological stress symptoms represent a major problem among health care professionals. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of and the relationship between psychiatric morbidity and burnout among a convenience sample of Italian primary care physicians (GPs) and hospital physicians (HPs).

Method: The sample consisted of 328 physicians (182 GPs and 146 HPs) who completed the 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI).

Results: The global prevalence of psychiatric morbidity was 22.3% (20.3% among GPs and 24.6% among HPs). Symptoms of emotional exhaustion were reported by 27.5% of the participants (GPs: 32.4%; HPs: 21.2%), depersonalization by 25.6% (GPs: 27.4%; HPs: 22.6%) and low personal accomplishment by 12.8% (GPs: 13.1%; HPs: 12.3%). No significant difference was found between the two groups, except higher levels of emotional exhaustion among GPs. Female GPs reported lower scores on MBI depersonalization and female HPs lower scores MBI personal accomplishment than male GPs and HPs, respectively.

Conclusions: The study underscores the significant problem of stress among physicians and indicates the need for supporting health professionals in order to improve their psychological well-being and, possibly, the quality of their relationship with the patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalists*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Professional Competence
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological