Aggressive acts by patients against general practitioners in New Zealand: one-year prevalence

N Z Med J. 2006 Jul 7;119(1237):U2050.


Aim: There is limited data about aggressive or violent acts that patients or their relatives commit against general practitioners (GPs). We aimed to estimate the one-year period prevalence of violence, harassment, and complaints, and the current level of psychological distress from the event perceived as causing the most distress.

Method: An anonymous, postal, national survey was sent to all vocationally registered general practitioners in New Zealand, in 2002.

Results: In one year, 15.4/100 GPs were verbally abused, 11.5/100 were intimidated, 7.1/100 received a complaint, 6.2/100 were sexually harassed, 3.5/100/yr were assaulted, 3.0/100 had property damaged,, 1.9/100 had been stalked, 1.7/100 were inappropriately touched, and 0.8/100/yr were injured. Men were more likely to be assaulted, and women were more at risk of sexual harassment. Thirty-five percent described some distress, and 27 GPs were severely distressed by these events. The context of the most distressing event mentioned was related to either requests for drugs, sexually inappropriate comments, and complaints.

Conclusions: The rate of violent acts reported depends in part on the action. Aggression may not be limited to attack and sexual harrassment. These events continue to cause distress. There is a poor association between commonly used interventions to prevent attacks and any reduction in risk. Informing GP trainees of such acts would be useful.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aggression*
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*