-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that as
many as one in 16 U.S. surgeons harbored suicidal thoughts in the
previous year, but few sought help from a mental-health
Researchers analyzed surveys completed by 7,905 members of the
American College of Surgeons in 2008 and found that 501 (6.3
percent) said they had thought about suicide within the past
Surgeons more likely to report suicidal thoughts included those
who were aged 45 and older; they were 1.5 to three times more
likely to have such thoughts than people in the general population.
Divorced surgeons also had a higher risk. Being married and having
children was associated with a lower risk, the study found.
"The perception of having made a major medical error in the previous three months was associated with a threefold increased risk of suicidal ideation, with 16.2 percent of surgeons who reported a recent major error experiencing suicidal ideation compared with 5.4 percent of surgeons not reporting an error," wrote Dr. Tait D. Shanafelt, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Only 130 (26 percent) of surgeons with suicidal thoughts sought
help from a psychiatrist or psychologist, while 301 (60.1 percent)
said they were reluctant to seek help because they thought it might
affect the status of their medical license.
Of the 461 surgeons who said they had taken antidepressants in
the past year, 41 (8.9 percent) wrote their own prescriptions and
34 (7.4 percent) received the prescription from a friend who wasn't
formally caring for them as a patient.
Further research is needed to learn more about the factors that
contribute to the higher rate of suicidal thoughts among surgeons,
along with efforts to help surgeons and eliminate barriers that
might make them reluctant to seek help, the Mayo Clinic researchers
The study appears in the January issue of the
Archives of Surgery.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses
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