Despite the high stress levels and demanding work schedules with which most doctors contend, new research asserts that physicians may be more immune to the risks of divorce than the rest of us. A new study finds that doctors are not only less likely to experience divorce than the majority of healthcare workers, but also that the profession’s divorce rate is lower than that of people who work in industries outside of healthcare.
The study was conducted by analyzing the survey results of more than 40,000 doctors and 200,000 other health professionals, including nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and healthcare executives. The surveys, which were collected between 2008 and 2013, revealed that divorced respondents comprised 23% of pharmacists, 24% of doctors, 25% of dentists, 31% of health executives, and 33% of nurses. The researchers also studied respondents not working in the health field and found that 35% of them had been divorced—demonstrating that healthcare professionals in general are less likely to divorce.
“It’s been speculated that doctors are more likely to be divorced than other professionals because of the long hours they keep and the stress associated with the job, but no large-scale study has ever investigated whether that is true,” said Dr. Anupam Jena, senior author of the study. He is both an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a practicing hospital physician.
Contrary to popular belief, it appears that the stress of working as a doctor does not significantly contribute to divorce risk. In fact, Dr. Jena and his colleagues found that “doctors have among the lowest rates of divorce among health care professionals.” He expects these surprising results to reassure “those entering medicine who are concerned about how their career choice might impact their personal lives.”
However, the study also found that female doctors were 1.5 times more likely to have been divorced than their male counterparts. Additionally, female physicians who work in excess of 40 hours per week were shown to be at an even higher risk of divorce than women who worked less—but the opposite proved true among male doctors.
“We believe that the higher incidence of divorce among female physicians stems from the greater tradeoffs they are forced to make to achieve work/life balance,” explained study lead author Dr. Dan Ly.
The study was published in the online journal BMJ on February 18th.