Objective: The stressful life of doctors makes them prone to burnout. We evaluated the prevalence of burnout among Hong Kong public hospital doctors and correlated burnout with job characteristics, working hours, stressors, and stress-relieving strategies.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Hong Kong.
Participants: One thousand doctors were randomly sampled from the Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association registry. Self-administered, anonymous questionnaires with postage-paid envelopes were mailed twice in early 2009. The Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey was used for burnout assessment. According to this scale, burnout is defined as emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Correlation analysis, as well as univariate and multivariate analyses, were performed to assess factors associated with high degrees of burnout. RESULTS. A total of 226 questionnaires were analysed, of which 31.4% of the respondents satisfied the criteria for high burnout. They were younger and needed to work shifts, and their median year of practice was 8.5. High-burnout doctors worked similar hours per week to non-high-burnout doctors (mean ± standard deviation, 56.2 ± 12.7 vs 54.7 ± 10.9; P=0.413) and reported suicidal thoughts more often (9.9% vs 2.6%; P=0.033). Moreover, 52.2% of high-burnout doctors were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their jobs. 'Excessive stress due to global workload' and 'feeling that their own work was not valued by others' were the most significant stressors associated with high emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, while 'feeling that their own work was not valued by others' and 'poor job security' correlated with low personal accomplishment.
Conclusions: A high proportion of public doctors who responded to our survey endured high burnout. Trainees with some experience were at heightened risk. Stressors identified in this study should be addressed, so as to improve job satisfaction.