Burnout and gender in surgical training: A call to re-evaluate coping and dysfunction

Am J Surg. 2018 Oct;216(4):800-804. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2018.07.058. Epub 2018 Sep 3.


Background: Physicians experience burnout and mental illness at significantly higher rates than the general population, with sequelae that negatively affect providers, patients, and the healthcare system at large. Gender is rarely considered in characterizing the problem or vetting interventions.

Methods: Using data from a recent national survey and a longitudinal pilot study of general surgery residents, we examined gender variation in burnout and distress.

Results: In the national survey, male residents had higher depersonalization and female residents had higher alcohol misuse, with a significant association between alcohol misuse, high depersonalization and low anxiety not seen in males. In the longitudinal pilot study, males' burnout scores were higher and had a greater contribution from depersonalization. Both males and females had increasing prevalence of high depersonalization over the intern year.

Conclusions: Residency affects males and females differently in ways that merit further investigation and better understanding to effectively address burnout and distress.

Keywords: Burnout; Coping; Gender; Surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depersonalization
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Surgeons / education
  • Surgeons / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology