A study of occupational stress and depression among emergency physicians

Ann Emerg Med. 1992 Jan;21(1):58-64. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)82238-3.


Objective: To determine the level of stress and depression among emergency physicians and whether these variables were related to the emergency physician's decision to leave the specialty. STUDY DESIGN AND TYPE OF PARTICIPANTS: The study involved a random sample of 1,350 emergency physicians who received a questionnaire containing scales on depression and occupational stress as well as questions about their future plans for remaining in the specialty.

Results: Seven hundred sixty-three usable surveys (56.5%) were returned. Mean scores for the locus of control, Work-Related Strain Inventory, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies--Depression Scale (CES-D) were within normal ranges. However, a disproportionate number, ie, more than 2.5% of the sample, scored more than two standard deviations from the mean. With the exception of the work satisfaction scale, there were no significant differences between the scores of fellows and nonfellows on measures of locus of control, stress, or depression. Of the population, 12.4% indicated that they were somewhat likely to very likely to leave the clinical practice of emergency medicine within the next year; 26.7% planned on leaving in the next five years, and less than half (42.9%) planned on seeing patients ten years from now. Older men, women, and those with high levels of stress and low job satisfaction were more likely to leave the specialty over the next ten years.

Conclusion: While the vast majority of emergency physicians reported normal levels of stress, a disproportionate number reported high levels of stress and depression and plan on leaving the specialty of emergency medicine. The number of individuals planning to leave appeared to be greater than the number that will be replaced through residency training.

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician Impairment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology