How UK Doctors' Lifestyle and Burnout Compares Internationally

Tim Locke

February 14, 2019

UK doctors are most likely to report having burnout so severe that they're considering leaving medicine, according to a Medscape survey.

Among UK doctors in the survey, 22% said they were burned out, 4% were depressed, and 10% experienced both burnout and depression. Because of burnout 25% said they were thinking of quitting medicine altogether.

Doctors in the UK were also most likely to report experiencing neither burnout nor depression (64%).

Burnout Factors

Overall, bureaucratic tasks, like charts and paperwork, were the biggest single contributory factor for burnout across the six countries. This was mentioned most in Portugal and the US (both 56%), and least in Spain and the UK (both 47%). 

Government regulations as a cause of burnout were highest in the UK (25%), but least often mentioned in Spain (7%).

Increased computerisation and electronic health records was least often mentioned in the UK (9%), but most often mentioned in the US (25%).

Lack of control or autonomy was more often mentioned in the UK (25%) but least in France (8%). 

Maintaining certification requirements was mentioned most in the UK (20%). It had less of an impact in Portugal (0%) and Spain (2%).

The UK was highest for doctors working 41-50 hours a week at 38%.UK doctors were also most likely to work part-time – 30 hours or under (28%). This was least likely in Portugal. 

Helping Reduce Burnout

When we asked what could help reduce burnout many of the answers tallied with the burnout factors raised in each country.

Better working hours or schedules was most popular in the UK and France (both 34%), but the least in Germany (22%). 

French doctors (43%) most often cite wanting more support staff. Portuguese doctors cite this least (4%). 

More reasonable patient loads were on the UK wish list, jointly with Spain at 39%

More respect from peers and managers was third on the UK's wish list (31%), and third on Spain's wish list too (34%).  

Emphasis on patients over profits resonated most in Germany (34%) and France (29%). With the UK's taxpayer funded NHS (National Health Service) patients over profit was less of an issue here (15%) than elsewhere. 

More reasonable patient loads was joint highest in the UK and Spain (39%) and least often suggested in France (15%).

Better respect from patients was least requested in the UK (9%) and Germany (10%), and the most in Portugal (16%).

Having more control or autonomy was most popular in the US (24%) and UK (22%), least in France (10%). 

Depression Causes

Work was by far the biggest cause of depression cited by doctors from all countries experiencing depression.

Concerns about finances are linked to work, and this was an issue most for doctors in the UK (30%), and least for doctors in France (10%). 

Seeking Help

A minority of doctors with burnout or depression said they were currently seeking help, ranging from the highest (17%) in the UK to 6% in Spain.

When asked why help was not being sought the most popular answer was symptoms not being severe enough. 

The issue of being concerned about disclosure was biggest in the UK (19%), smallest in Spain (4%). 

The majority of all doctors surveyed indicate their current employer or workplace does not offer a programme to reduce stress and/or burnout. UK doctors were most likely to say a programme was not available (46%). A significant number didn’t know, with the UK highest at 36%.

Inside and Outside Work

UK doctors were second most likely to be happy outside work (62%) beaten by Spain (65%).

The UK also scored second place for being extremely happy at work (34%) after Spain again (39%). The UK was also second for extremely unhappy at work (14%) after France (17%).


When it came to healthy and unhealthy habits, UK doctors were joint most likely to exercise daily, alongside US counterparts.

The UK and US also had the most doctors trying to lose weight.

Smoking was least prevalent among UK doctors, but highest in French doctors.

One in 5 UK doctors consume or exceed the NHS recommended limit of 14 units of alcohol a week.

The UK and France were most likely not to have religious or spiritual beliefs. Having a spiritual belief was highest in the US.


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