Canadian Medical Association

After surveying nearly 3,000 physicians and residents across Canada, the CMA has compiled new data on physician health and wellness.

Despite growing concerns about issues such as burnout and depression amongst physicians, Canadian information was limited. The CMA’s National Physician Health Survey helps bridge this gap and create a baseline for future research. 

The survey reveals that while 82 per cent of physicians and residents reported high resilience, more than one in four also reported high levels of burnout and one in three screened positive for depression. 

Medical residents are the most at risk; residents surveyed were 48 per cent more likely to report burnout and 95 per cent more likely to screen positive for depression than all other physician groups. By comparison, physicians in practice for 31 years or more reported the highest emotional, social and psychological well-being.

Additionally, physicians whose main practice setting was a hospital had increased odds of lower emotional, social and psychological well-being, compared to physicians working in other settings.

Dr. Joy Albuquerque is a psychiatrist, medical director of the Ontario Medical Association’s physician health program and a member of the expert working group who helped develop the survey.

“This is information I will be using every chance I get,” explains Dr. Albuquerque. “There’s evidence now about the urgency of supporting physician well-being. This data provides a business case – if hospitals and clinics are better places to work in, if doctors are healthier and more joyful in their work, then it also means better care for patients.”

CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler says this dataset supports the CMA’s focus on tackling physician health on two fronts.

“Physician health and wellness must be treated both at the individual and system levels”, added Dr. Osler. “It’s the combination of these factors that perpetuate the issue and this needs to be addressed.”

The report also highlights physicians’ reluctance to access physician health service programs. While more than 80 per cent of respondents said they were aware of physician health program services available to them, only 15 per cent had accessed them.

“A lot of physicians feel alone when they’re sick and distressed and feel like they’re the only one suffering – they’re the weak one,” says Dr. Albuquerque, adding that she hopes this new data will help to dispel some of those myths.

This dataset is just one pillar of the CMA’s growing work on physician health. 

In early October, the CMA announced the appointment of Dr. Caroline Gérin-Lajoie to the newly created position of vice-president of physician health and wellness. She will be joining the association in January, working with members and stakeholders to identify ways of supporting physician wellness. 

From October 11-13, the CMA also co-hosted the International Conference on Physician Health in Toronto, bringing together hundreds of participants from more than 16 countries to share research, ideas and best practices on health and wellness in the medical profession. During the conference, the CMA released its statement on physician health and wellness, a document affirming its policy on physician health and commitment to the issue.

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