In an article on KevinMD, Dr. Tista S. Ghosh, MD, MPH, discusses the high suicide rate among physicians and advocates for a solution.
Ghosh writes: “Physicians have long had disproportionately high suicide rates. One 2018 literature review found the physician suicide rate to be double the average. Sleep deprivation, stress and stigma have been hypothesized as contributors to this issue. In recent years, physician wellness and burnout have become increasingly common topics in medical conferences and educational modules. Residency program duty hours and rest breaks have been regularly debated and reshaped. However, physician suicide rates remain excessively high.
“So the question is: why? What are the root causes? What are the systems-level issues that are causing an entire population of workers to die at disproportionately high rates? If a specific occupation had excess levels of a specific cancer, what measures would be taken to study the causes and reduce the risk? Wouldn’t the industry responsible for the cancers be expected to protect their workers? Why aren’t we looking at excess suicide death among physicians in a similar vein?
“As a public health physician, and the current chief medical officer of Colorado’s state health department, I am trained to ask these types of questions, to look at large groups or populations and identify underlying, systemic issues that affect their health. In my state, suicide has consistently been a leading cause of death, and we are continually examining who is most affected and why. We look at disparities by gender (mostly men), race (primarily white), age (mid-life) and occupations at highest risk, to target interventions to the population at risk. And for me, it is jarring to see my own occupation consistently identified as a high-risk group.” Read more.