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Healthgrades for ProfessionalsHappiest Physicians By Specialty in 2024

Physician happiness varies significantly across specialties, with plastic surgeons leading and infectious disease specialists at the bottom. Key factors include work-life balance, relationships, and self-care practices, all influenced by the enduring impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medscape’s 2023 survey of more than 9,100 physicians reveals significant disparities in happiness across different medical specialties. Plastic surgeons report the highest levels of happiness outside of work, while infectious disease specialists are the least happy. The survey identifies key lifestyle factors affecting physician well-being, such as marriage satisfaction, work-life balance, physical activity, and self-care strategies, highlighting the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician happiness.

Key Points:

  • Happiest Specialties:
    • Plastic Surgery: 71% of plastic surgeons report feeling happy outside of work.
    • Public Health and Preventive Medicine: 69% happiness rate.
    • Orthopedics and Otolaryngology: Both at 65%.
    • Urology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Both at 63%.
    • Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Pathology, and Gastroenterology: All at 62%.
  • Least Happy Specialties:
    • Infectious Diseases: Only 47% report happiness.
    • Rheumatology and Oncology: Both at 51%.
    • Neurology: 54%.
    • Allergy and Immunology, Critical Care, Emergency Medicine: Each at 55%.
    • Cardiology, Family Medicine: Both at 56%.
    • Internal Medicine: 57%.
  • Impact of COVID-19:
    • Pre-pandemic, over 80% of physicians reported being happy outside of work; this number has dropped to 59%.
    • The stress and demands from the pandemic continue to affect physician well-being.
  • Physician Lifestyle Factors:
    • Marriage and Relationships:
      • High satisfaction in marriages among family physicians: 90% of males and 78% of females are married or living with a partner.
      • Over 80% describe their marriages as “good” or “very good.”
    • Work-Life Balance:
      • 53% of physicians would accept a pay cut for better work-life balance.
      • High amounts of bureaucratic tasks and long work hours contribute to burnout.
    • Physical Activity and Wellness:
      • 35% of family physicians exercise 4 times per week or more.
      • 31% are physically active once a week or less.
    • Self-Care Strategies:
      • Common strategies include hobbies (reading, gardening), spending time with friends or family, physical activity, getting enough sleep, eating well, and therapy.
  • Challenges and Factors Affecting Happiness:
    • Feelings of burnout and decreased vacation time.
    • Higher rates of low mood and clinical depression.
    • Gender disparities, with female family physicians experiencing higher burnout rates due to gender or race-based microaggressions and workplace distress.
    • Balancing parental responsibilities with work demands.

“The most and least happy physicians by specialty are similar to the previous 2022 results, with infectious diseases specialties also scoring low in 2022.”

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