Physicians married or partnered to physicians: a comparative study in the American College of Surgeons

J Am Coll Surg. 2010 Nov;211(5):663-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2010.03.032.


Background: Dual-physician relationships are increasingly common. In this study, the authors explore how surgeons in dual-physician relationships differ from other partnered surgeons in their demographics, practice characteristics, family lives, distress, and job satisfaction.

Study design: In 2008, members of the American College of Surgeons were asked to complete a survey that included questions on burnout, work-home conflict, and career satisfaction.

Results: Among 7,905 responding surgeons (a 32% response rate), 7,120 (90%) had a domestic partner (DP). Half (3,471 of 7,120 [48.8%]) of DPs did not work outside the home, 16.4% (1,165) were physicians, and 34.9% (2,484) were working nonphysicians. Surgeons whose DP was a physician were younger, newer to practice, were more likely to delay having children and to believe childrearing had slowed their career advancement, and were less likely to believe that they had enough time for their personal and family life compared with their colleagues whose DP was a working nonphysician or stayed at home (all p < 0.05). Surgeons in dual-physician relationships more often experienced a recent career conflict with their DP and a work-home conflict than surgeons whose DPs were working nonphysicians (all p < 0.0001). Surgeons whose DP is another surgeon face even greater challenges in these areas. Physicians married or partnered to another physician were more likely to have depressive symptoms and low mental quality of life than surgeons whose DP stayed at home (all p < 0.05). Surgeons whose DP stayed at home appear to be more satisfied with their career (p = 0.0006).

Conclusions: Surgeons whose DP is another physicians appear to experience greater challenges balancing personal and professional life than surgeons whose DP is a working nonphysicians or whose DP stays at home.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family Conflict
  • Female
  • General Surgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Job Description
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Societies, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women, Working / statistics & numerical data*