Prevalence of alcohol use disorders among American surgeons

Arch Surg. 2012 Feb;147(2):168-74. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2011.1481.


Objectives: To determine the point prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence among practicing surgeons.

Design: Cross-sectional study with data gathered through a 2010 survey.

Setting: The United States of America.

Participants: Members of the American College of Surgeons.

Main outcome measures: Alcohol abuse and dependence.

Results: Of 25,073 surgeons sampled, 7197 (28.7%) completed the survey. Of these, 1112 (15.4%) had a score on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, version C, consistent with alcohol abuse or dependence. The point prevalence for alcohol abuse or dependence for male surgeons was 13.9% and for female surgeons was 25.6%. Surgeons reporting a major medical error in the previous 3 months were more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence (odds ratio, 1.45; P < .001). Surgeons who were burned out (odds ratio, 1.25; P = .01) and depressed (odds ratio, 1.48; P < .001) were more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence. The emotional exhaustion and depersonalization domains of burnout were strongly associated with alcohol abuse or dependence. Male sex, having children, and working for the Department of Veterans Affairs were associated with a lower likelihood of alcohol abuse or dependence.

Conclusions: Alcohol abuse and dependence is a significant problem in US surgeons. Organizational approaches for the early identification of problematic alcohol consumption followed by intervention and treatment where indicated should be strongly supported.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depersonalization / epidemiology
  • Female
  • General Surgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician Impairment / psychology
  • Physician Impairment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology