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Doctor Divorce Rates Broken Down by Specialty

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Hadeel Abdelkariem, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Hadeel Abdelkariem

    Hadeel Abdelkariem Golden Member

    Apr 1, 2018
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    Did you know that U.S. doctors are no more likely to have marriages that end in divorce than non-healthcare professionals?

    It’s true! According to Medscape, the divorce rate among doctors is 24.3%, while that of non-healthcare professionals is 35%.

    This common misconception stems from the truths that doctors often deal with high levels of stress, work long hours, and feel a significant amount of pressure with their responsibilities. While those factors do not lead to a higher divorce rate among doctors as a whole, correlations do exist between physician specialties and divorce rates.


    Dear Doctor: Are You Stressed Out?

    Taking a Look at the Specialties
    The current risk of divorce among physicians is broken down to reveal the following divorce rate percentages by specialty:
    ● Dentists - 25.2%
    ● Pharmacists - 22.9%
    ● Nurses - 33.0%

    Specialties Can’t Take All the Blame

    Going back further, in 1997, John Hopkins University published a comprehensive, long-term study to understand the relationship between physician specialties and divorce rates. They examined 1,118 participants and found the cumulative divorce rate to be 29% (higher than today’s percentage), with higher rates among surgeons (33%) and psychiatrists (50%).
    The team of researchers looked into the individual specialties as well as the psychological characteristics, marital histories, and other personal factors that could have an impact on the results. The 1,118 physicians in the study had graduated from John Hopkins University from 1948-1964, and the 30 year follow up showed the following results in regards to divorce rates and specialty:
    ● Psychiatrists - 51%
    ● Surgeons - 33%
    ● Internists - 24%
    ● Pediatricians - 22%
    ● Other specialties - 31%

    The research also identified that physicians who got married before graduating med-school had a higher divorce rate (33%) than those who waited until after their graduation (23%).

    They even considered the year when the marriage took place, with 11% for marriages preceding 1953, 17% for 1953-1957, 24% for 1958-1962, and 21% for after 1962.

    Although specialty is a key factor when it comes to determining the likelihood of divorce among those within the medical field, it should not be the only element considered. Other considerations need to be taken into account such as:
    ● Having a divorced parent
    ● Having a parent who was a physician
    ● Being an only child
    ● Having a close relationship with parents
    ● Religious affiliation
    ● Graduating class rank
    ● Gender

    Understanding Why Certain Specialties Have a Higher divorce Rate

    We can only speculate about why particular specialties lead to higher levels of divorce at this time. The researchers from the John Hopkins study cautioned that their research was unable to address the quality of the marriages they studied. They commented that physicians may have been more likely to stay in unhappy marriages due to social and financial reasons, and that most participants in the study were taken from a time when divorce was considered to be less socially acceptable.

    Some suggest that psychiatrists have a higher level of divorce than physicians in any other specialty because of the amount of emotional baggage and trauma that they deal with on a daily basis. Other experts seem to suggest a correlation between divorce rates and the evidence of physician burnout across the U.S.

    A survey published in 2012 by the Archives of International Medicine, found that physicians were more likely to suffer burnout than any other professional, with 45.8% experiencing at least one symptom. Higher levels of depression and emotional frustration caused by burnout symptoms such as, lost enthusiasm for work, low feelings of personal accomplishment, and a prevailing sense of cynicism are all factors that can cause turbulence within relationships.

    In order to understand how specialty has an impact on the divorce rates of those within the medical profession, future studies will need to consider additional relationship factors such as:
    • Points of view that physicians’ and their spouses hold about their marriage
    • The quality of the marriage
    • The general opinion of marriage and divorce in society at present
    • Other stressors (outside of the workplace) that affect divorce

    Can Physicians Avoid divorce?

    Unfortunately, divorce plagues a high number of individuals, regardless of their occupation. While occupational elements may place extra stress on a marriage (i.e. professional burnout, emotional strain, long hours away from home), there is not enough supporting data to label a profession as the largest impact on relationship strength.

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