We assessed changes in the mental health of UK hospital consultants from five specialties, on the basis of surveys done in 1994 (880 participants) and 2002 (1308 participants). The proportion of consultants with psychiatric morbidity rose from 27% (235) in 1994 to 32% (414) in 2002. The prevalence of emotional exhaustion increased from 32% (284) in 1994 to 41% (526) in 2002. Multivariate analyses showed that increased job stress without a comparable increase in job satisfaction accounted for the decline in mental health, which was especially marked in clinical and surgical oncologists. Action is needed to improve the working lives of consultants.