About half of rheumatologists report being happy with their life outside of the office ― a significant drop since before the pandemic, according to the Medscape Rheumatologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2023.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 76% of rheumatologists reported feeling happy with their personal lives ― the lowest percentage across all specialties. In 2023, rheumatologists only ranked higher than infectious disease physicians in reporting happiness outside of work.

Half of Respondents Report Burnout

Three in 10 rheumatologists reported feeling burned out, and 21% said they were burned out and depressed. Reports of feelings of burnout were similar this year among men and women, whereas in last year’s report, 59% of female rheumatologists and 38% of male rheumatologists said they felt burned out. Half of respondents said burnout has moderately affected their lives, and 30% said it has had a severe impact. The volume of bureaucratic tasks (77%) was the top contributor to burnout, followed by insufficient pay (42%) and the use of electronic health records (37%).

The most common coping mechanisms among rheumatologists were exercise (47%) and eating junk food (36%). Rheumatologists more frequently reported positive coping mechanisms, such as listening to music (33%), talking with family and close friends (33%), and getting more sleep (31%). A smaller percentage of respondents reported drinking alcohol (13%) and binge eating (8%) as ways they cope with burnout.

Only 6% said they had sought professional help outside of the workplace for burnout; 59% said they had not sought professional help but would consider doing so.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Nearly half (48%) of rheumatologists said COVID-19 somewhat affected their work-life happiness this year, and 30% said it had a “significant” impact. About one fifth (22%) said the pandemic had little to no impact on their work-life happiness in the past year. Over half (54%) of respondents said they would take a pay cut for better work-life balance ― a drop from 60% the year before.

More than 70% of rheumatologists said they used exercise to maintain their happiness and mental health; 38% worked out two to three times a week, and 27% worked out four to five times a week. Spending time with family and friends (64%), hobbies (61%), healthy eating (51%), and getting more sleep (49%) were important for maintaining mental health, respondents said.

Most rheumatologists (87% of men and 73% of women) reported being married; 22% of female rheumatologists and 6% of male rheumatologists were single. More than three fourths of married rheumatologists described their marriage as “good” or “very good.”

About three fifths (61%) of rheumatologists said they hold spiritual or religious beliefs, compared with 69% of all physicians surveyed.

About half of respondents (49%) took 3–4 weeks per year of vacation time, while 25% took 1–2 weeks a year, and 17% took 5–6 weeks a year.

The 2023 Medscape Happiness, Wellness, and Lifestyle survey included 9175 physicians across 29 specialties who completed an online survey between June 28, 2022, and October 3, 2022. Rheumatologists made up 1% of the survey respondents. Most respondents were 35–64 years old, and 39% were women.

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