Suicidal Ideation and Attitudes Regarding Help Seeking in US Physicians Relative to the US Working Population

Tait D Shanafelt, Lotte N. Dyrbye, Colin P. West, Christine Sinsky, Michael Tutty, Lindsey E. Carlasare, Hanhan Wang, Mickey Trockel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of suicidal ideation (SI) and attitudes regarding help seeking among US physicians relative to the general US working population. Participants and Methods: A secondary analysis of a cross-sectional survey of US physicians and a probability-based sample of the US working population was conducted between October 12, 2017, and March 15, 2018. Among 30,456 invited physicians, 5197 (17.1%) completed the primary survey. Suicidal ideation in the last year, attitudes regarding help seeking, symptoms of depression, and burnout were assessed by standardized questions. Results: Among the 4833 physicians who responded regarding SI, 316 (6.5%) reported having suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months. Most physicians (3527 [72.9%]) reported that they would seek professional help if they had a serious emotional problem. Physicians with SI were less likely to report that they would seek help (203/316 [64.2%]) than physicians without SI (3318/4517 [73.5%]; P=.001). On multivariable analysis, symptoms of depression (odds ratio [OR], 4.42; 95% CI, 1.89 to 11.52), emotional exhaustion (OR, 1.07 each 1-point increase; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.11), and self-valuation (OR, 0.84 each 1-point increase; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.99) were associated with SI. Among individuals aged 29 to 65 years, physicians were more likely than workers in other fields to report SI (7.1% vs 4.3%; P<.001), a finding that persisted on multivariable analysis. Conclusion: In this national study conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 15 US physicians had thoughts of taking their own life in the last year, which exceeded the prevalence of SI among US workers in other fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2067-2080
Number of pages14
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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