“Who helps the helpers?” A pilot survey of workrelated stress, lifestyle and self-medication in Hospital Doctors in the United Kingdom
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Doctors face a demanding working environment, which can contribute to burnout, emotional exhaustion, reduced efficacy, mental ill-health as well as drug and other dependencies. A fairly extensive, yet heterogeneous, body of literature is emerging on the impact of this on their health and resulting consequences to patients’ quality of care. While existing evidence has focused on different “symptoms” (e.g. burnout vs depression), measures, specialities, seniority and gender. However, little attention has been paid to holistic and general lifestyle patterns, including coping strategies which may mitigate work-based harms. Aim: Our pilot study aimed at exploring: (a) work load; (b) drug intake (including alcohol, self-prescribed medicine and enhancement drugs); (c) and physical activity and lifestyles among doctors working in a District General Hospital in the East of England. Methods: an anonymous survey questionnaire was designed and disseminated via internal mailing list. Results: 106 doctors from different specialties and all grades completed the questionnaire. Respondents reported high levels of work load, with 45.9% having considered leaving the profession, while 12.3% thought seriously about committing suicide at least once. The majority worked long hours (46-50 hours per week) and were physically inactive, the majority less than two hours per week, and 8.2% reporting taking no exercise. Some use of psychoactive substances was reported, including of nootropics, but overall reported consumption of alcohol and other drugs was lower than average. Conclusions: Results will inform a national-level study and non-pharmacological interventions to manage work-based stress, including the promotion of physical activity in hospital settings.
KEY WORDS: doctors, burnout, emotional exhaustion, nootropics.