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The Physicians Foundation released the 2021 Survey of America’s Physicians, COVID-19 Impact Edition: A Year Later, that examines how COVID-19 has affected the nation’s physicians more than a year since the start of the pandemic, from increased burnout rates to the continued epidemic of physician suicide.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has greatly impacted physician wellbeing and mental health, with over 6 in 10 physicians (61%) reporting they experienced feelings of burnout.

This is a significant increase from the 40% of reported physicians in 2018. Yet only 14% of physicians reported they sought medical attention for their mental health symptoms.

Additionally, 8% of physicians indicated they have increased their use of medications, alcohol or illicit drugs weekly as a result of COVID-19’s effects on their practice or employment situation.

A total of 46% of physicians said they have isolated or withdrawn from other people in the last year, more than one in three said they felt hopeless or without a purpose, and 57% reported experiencing “inappropriate episodes of anger, tearfulness, or anxiety.”

The report stated that “difficult working conditions such as a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and caring for patients who may be seriously ill for weeks — along with burdensome administrative tasks, long hours, and grief over losing patients — have become the norm, but little has been done to alleviate the heavy mental health toll on physicians.”

Additional findings from the 2021 Survey include:

– – A significantly larger proportion of younger (64%) and female (69%) physicians reported frequently feeling burnout as compared to older (59%) and male (57%) physicians.
– – Physicians who were employed by hospitals or health systems experienced more frequent feelings of burnout (64%) as compared to independent physicians (56%).
– – Nearly 8 in 10 physicians indicated they experienced changes to their practice or employment as a result of COVID-19.
– – Almost half of physicians (49%) reported a reduction in income while 32% reported a reduction in staff as a result of the pandemic.
– – Nearly 70% of physicians indicated they anticipate continuing the use of telehealth in their ongoing practice.
– – Despite the high rates of burnout, nearly half (46%) of physicians said they would still recommend medicine as a career option to young people.

A total of 23% of physicians, across a range of demographics, said they want to retire in the next year, a drop from the 38% who reported wanting to retire in 2020.