Background: With the demands faced by anesthetists and intensive care physicians apparently increasing continuously in Germany, the increased risk of burnout in comparison with the general working population is discussed. This debate has previously been merely speculative because of the lack of studies comparing the burn-out risk of the German working population with anesthetists. Accordingly it was not certain whether anesthetists really are at greater risk of developing burnout as has often been suggested. Moreover, age, gender, function, workplace environment, e.g. working at a hospital compared to a general practitioner (GP) surgery, may influence the risk of burnout. Therefore, this study examined whether the risk for anesthetists in Germany suffering from burnout really is greater than in other occupations. In addition, factors influencing the burnout risks of anesthetists were analyzed.
Method: A total of 3,541 questionnaires completed by German aaesthetists for a study on work satisfaction by the CBI (Copenhagen Burnout Inventory, part of the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire, COPSOQ) were analyzed. Apart from calculating the number of participants with a high risk of developing burnout syndrome, the data were used to calculate a generalized burnout score for all participants. The score was compared with data from both a random sample representing a wide variety of occupations from among the general population in Germany (n = 4,709) and a random sample of German hospital doctors (n = 616). In addition, subgroups were formed by gender, function (senior consultant, senior physician, specialist, junior doctor) and type and place of work (university hospital, public hospital, private clinic, GP surgery, freelance work) and the proportion of each group with a high risk of burnout syndrome was calculated. In addition, general burnout scores were compared statistically for differences among the various groups.
Results: The proportion of study participants with a high risk of burnout was 40.1%. Differences were found to exist between genders (male 37.2% versus female 46%), qualifications (senior consultant 28.9%, senior physician 38%, specialist 41.5%, junior doctor 46.7%) and working in a hospital (41.3%) compared to a GP surgery (33.2%). The random sample of hospital doctors (n = 616) showed a burnout score of 49 ± 19 (mean ± standard deviation), compared to 44 ± 19 for a random sample of the German population (n = 4,709) and 42 ± 19 for anesthetists (p < 0.01). Of the subgroups formed, the highest score (49.1 ± 19) was recorded for female junior doctors working in anesthesia. The type of hospital did not influence the burnout score (university hospital 43.8 ± 19.8 versus public hospital 42.9 ± 19.1 versus private hospital 42.4 ± 18.7, p > 0.05). Working in a hospital was found to result in higher burnout scores than in a GP surgery or freelance work (43 ± 19.2 versus 38.1 ± 20.5; t(3531) = 5.0, p < 0.001)
Conclusions: Despite 40.1% of anesthetists being at high risk of burnout, generally speaking the risk of burnout among anesthetists was not higher than in other occupational groups in Germany. However, burnout risks for specific groups, such as female junior doctors in anesthesia, were higher and the possibility of providing social support in the workplace should be considered.