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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Events of the past year challenged the happiness, wellness, and lifestyles of many, but especially those in the healthcare field. Whether on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients, pivoting from in-person to virtual care, or even having to shutter their practices, physicians faced an onslaught of crises, while political tensions, social unrest, and environmental concerns probably affected their lives outside of medicine.

In this year's report, Medscape explores how oncologists are coping with burnout, maintaining personal wellness, and viewing their workplaces and their futures amid the pandemic. More than 12,000 physicians in over 29 specialties responded to our survey.

(Note: Some totals in this presentation do not equal 100% due to rounding.)

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Oncologists largely reported being happy outside of work prior to COVID-19 affecting everyday living in March 2020. Eighty-five percent said they were somewhat or very happy then, similar to the percentage (82%) of physicians overall. Endocrinologists and public health and preventive medicine physicians were ranked highest on happiness outside of work before the pandemic; infectious disease physicians ranked lowest.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

As the pandemic has worn on, feelings have shifted, showing signs of strain on the healthcare industry and its doctors. Similar to physicians overall (58%), 61% of oncologists say they are now very or somewhat happy outside of work. Perhaps not surprising given the specific challenges around COVID-19, infectious disease physicians (45%), pulmonologists (47%), rheumatologists (49%), and intensivists (49%) currently rank lowest in happiness outside of work.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

The percentage of oncologists who said they were either burned out or both burned out and depressed is somewhat less than that in last year's report (32% vs 41%).

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Nearly three quarters of oncologist respondents who reported burnout consider it serious enough to have at least a moderate impact on their lives. One tenth find it so severe that they are thinking of leaving medicine altogether, an unexpected outcome after having spent so many years in training to become a physician.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

The large majority of burned-out oncologists felt that way even before the pandemic began.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

About two thirds of oncologists who reported burnout pointed to the growing number of bureaucratic tasks as the leading contributor. Other factors include spending too many hours at work. (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Oncologists' top tactics for dealing with burnout are exercise and talking with family members or friends. Exercise is the most popular choice (48%) among physicians overall. (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

The large majority of depressed and/or burned-out oncologists plan to forego professional care for the problem. Seventeen percent are seeking help now or plan to do so.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Considering their symptoms not severe enough and feeling that they could deal with the problem a different way are top reasons why oncologists haven't sought professional help for their burnout and/or depression. (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Thirteen percent of oncologists who are burned out, depressed, or both said they have had thoughts of suicide.

Alarmingly, our survey showed that 2% of burned-out and/or depressed oncologists have made suicide attempts. Among such physicians overall, 1% said they have attempted suicide.

"Anyone who has made a suicide attempt is at greater risk at some point of completing the act," said Carol Bernstein, MD, a psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York.

One physician who admitted to having had suicidal thoughts said, "I yell all the time. I am angry and frustrated all the time. I think about quitting all the time. ... No one [in my organization] cares about doing the right things for patients as much as I do."

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Work-life balance is the most pressing workplace issue for 38% of oncologists. Among physicians overall, 46% said work-life balance is their top concern.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Seventy-eight percent of oncologists have some degree of anxiety about their future, given COVID-19 — a similar percentage as for physicians overall (77%). However, The U.S. National Pandemic Emotional Impact Report, a project spearheaded by investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School, found that 23% of Americans surveyed had no fear of a bleaker future.

"This speaks to a fundamentally positive attitude toward life, even in a pandemic, and echoes the research on resilience in physicians," said Michael F. Myers, MD, a specialist in physician health and professor of clinical psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, New York. "Physicians who are not paralyzed by anxiety are in a good position to help their patients because they can be hopeful, empathic, and calming."

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Forty-seven percent of oncologists would sacrifice some of their salary for a better home life, the same percentage as for physicians overall.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

One third of oncologists generally make time to focus on their own well-being, a similar proportion as for physicians overall (35%).

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Seventy-one percent of oncologists say they exercise two or more times per week, similar to the percentage (70%) of physicians overall.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity for adults, or a combination of both. The group noted that this is for those in self-quarantine without any symptoms or diagnosis of acute respiratory illness.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Fourteen percent of oncologists have five or more drinks per week. Twenty-one percent said they do not consume alcohol at all.

Men should not exceed 14 drinks per week and women seven per week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Toyota is the most popular make among oncologists, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Physicians overall favored Toyota, Honda, and BMW. Respondents were allowed to choose as many makes as applied.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

About half of oncologists take 3-4 weeks of vacation per year, while a fifth take 5 or more weeks.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Thirty-nine percent of oncologists are currently trying to lose weight, with 44% working to maintain their current weight — no easy task during the pandemic.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

The large majority of oncologists are currently in a committed relationship. Eighty-five percent are either married or living with a partner, the same percentage as for physicians overall.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Eighty-seven percent of oncologists say their marriages are very good or good, similar to the 89% who described their marriages that way in last year's report.

Both this year and last, 85% of physicians overall said their marriages were very good or good.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

Among oncologists who are married or living with a partner, 42% are with someone in the medical field. Similarly, among all such physicians, a notable percentage have a spouse or partner who works in healthcare.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

The majority (65%) of oncologists spend up to 10 hours per week online for personal use.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

A large majority (85%) of oncologists are online for work for up to 10 hours per week. One could assume that that will grow with the rise of telemedicine due to the pandemic. Even when their personal use and professional use are combined, on average, oncologists spend far less time online than the nearly 7 hours per day of the average internet user, as reported by Hootsuite and We Are Social.

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Oncologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021

Keith L. Martin; Mary Lyn Koval | February 19, 2021 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2021

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