Aims: To investigate psychological distress among Auckland Health Board hospital doctors, and to evaluate the unique relationships of idealism, stressful life events, and stress appraisals to their mental health.
Methods: A questionnaire consisting of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), the Physician Stress Inventory of stress appraisals, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, and demographic questions was distributed to 680 Auckland Hospital doctors; 172 (25.3%) of these doctors returned useable questionnaires. Psychological distress was defined by GHQ-12 global scores of current depression, anxiety, and psychiatric symptoms.
Results: Cases of psychological distress (29.1%) were comparable to those of GPs in New Zealand (NZ), Australia, and the United Kingdom (UK), and significantly higher than the general NZ population (although there were no demographic differences). Multivariate analysis of variance showed that, compared to non-cases, cases had higher mean stressful life-event scores and appraisal scores for internal professional stress, external professional stress, decreased work productivity, and interference with family life. Stepwise regression analysis revealed that life events and stress appraisals had a very large effect on psychological distress, with appraisals of decreased work productivity and interference with family life having significant effects.
Conclusion: Stress appraisals need to be considered in examining the relationship between stressful situations and hospital doctors' mental health.