Psychosocial and professional characteristics of burnout in Swiss primary care practitioners: a cross-sectional survey

Swiss Med Wkly. 2005 Feb 19;135(7-8):101-8.


Objective: To measure the prevalence of burnout and explore its professional and psychosocial predictors among Swiss primary care practitioners.

Methods: A cross-sectional postal survey was conducted to measure burnout, work-related stressors, professional and psychosocial characteristics among a representative sample of primary care practitioners. Answers to the Maslach burnout inventory were used to categorize respondents into moderate and high degree of burnout.

Results: 1784 physicians responded to the survey (65% response rate) and 1755 questionnaires could be analysed. 19% of respondents had a high score for emotional exhaustion, 22% had a high score for depersonalisation/cynicism and 16% had a low score for professional accomplishment; 32% had a high score on either the emotional exhaustion or the depersonalisation/cynicism scale (moderate degree of burnout) and 4% had scores in the range of burnout in all three scales (high degree of burnout). Predictors of moderate burnout were male sex, age 45-55 years and excessive perceived stress due to global workload, health-insurance-related work, difficulties to balance professional and private life, changes in the health care system and medical care uncertainty. A high degree of burnout was associated with male sex, practicing in a rural area, and excessive perceived stress due to global workload, patient's expectations, difficulties to balance professional and private life, economic constraints in relation to the practice, medical care uncertainty and difficult relations with non-medical staff at the practice.

Conclusion: About one third of Swiss primary care practitioners presented a moderate or a high degree of burnout, which was mainly associated with extrinsic work-related stressors. Medical doctors and politicians in charge of redesigning the health care system should address this phenomenon to maintain an efficient Swiss primary care physician workforce in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Management, Medical
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Professional Practice Location
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Workload