The medical marriage: a national survey of the spouses/partners of US physicians

Mayo Clin Proc. 2013 Mar;88(3):216-25. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.11.021. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Objective: To evaluate physician relationships from the perspective of their spouses/partners.

Methods: Nearly all data on satisfaction with physician relationships come from the perspective of the physician rather than their spouse/partner. We conducted a national study of the spouses/partners of US physicians from August 17, 2011, through September 12, 2011. Responding spouses/partners provided information on demographic characteristics, their own work life, and the work life of their physician partners. Spouses/partners also rated relationship satisfaction and the effect of the work life of their physician partner on the relationship.

Results: Of the 1644 spouses/partners of physicians surveyed, 891 (54.2%) responded. Most spouses/partners (86.8%) reported that they were satisfied with their relationship with their physician partner. Satisfaction strongly related to the amount of time spent awake with their physician partners each day. Despite their overall satisfaction, spouses/partners reported their physician partners frequently came home irritable, too tired to engage in home activities, or preoccupied with work. On multivariate analysis, minutes spent awake with their physician partners each day was the strongest predictor of relationship satisfaction, exhibiting a dose-response effect. No professional characteristic of the physician partners (eg, hours worked per week, specialty area, and practice setting) other than the number of nights on call per week correlated with relationship satisfaction on adjusted analysis.

Conclusion: The spouses/partners of US physicians report generally high satisfaction with their relationships. The mean time spent with their physician partners each day appears to be a dominant factor associated with relationship satisfaction and overshadows any specific professional characteristic of the physicians' practice, including specialty area, practice setting, and work hours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Physicians*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Work / psychology*
  • Workload / psychology