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MDs With More Severely Ill Patients May See Greater Risk of Burnout

A new Danish study reveals that general practitioners (GPs) who treat many patients with multiple chronic diseases (known as multimorbidity) experience more significant mental strain than GPs who treat fewer severely ill patients and are at risk of burnout.

In addition, previous research has shown that patients with multimorbidity also receive worse treatment in the health care system.

The new study is based on research showing that there are increasing numbers of patients with multimorbidity, meaning that the prevalence of GPs with symptoms of poor well-being and burnout is also on the rise.

This is the conclusion of Dr. Anette Fischer Pedersen, who is senior researcher at the Research Unit for General Practice and an associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark.

“One of our findings in the study is that among the quarter of general practitioners who had the fewest number of patients with multimorbidity in 2016, 7 percent had what we call full burnout syndrome. This contrasts with the figure of 12 percent among the quarter who had the highest number of patients with multimorbidity.”

She believes that the result shows the importance of looking closely at the working conditions of general practitioners.

“As things are today in the context of general practitioners’ time and remuneration, there is often no difference between treating a patient with a long and complex history of illness and a normally healthy patient who is there to get treatment for an uncomplicated illness. This puts general practitioners under a lot of pressure,” Pedersen said.

One of the focal points of the study is that it documents the link between the number of patients with multimorbidity and the well-being of GPs; or lack of well-being, which was pronounced when the proportion of patients with multimorbidity was high.

According to Pedersen, the problem cannot simply be solved by GPs allocating more time to complex patients within the framework that general practice works under today.

“It’s no secret that there are areas in Denmark where there’s a lower level of public health than in others. This may mean it will be difficult to get GPs to work in areas where the need for competent medical treatment is highest, simply because working there is an unattractive proposition. If we’re determined to work towards reducing the risk of burnout among general practitioners, we will also help to prevent inequality in health,” she said.

Since 2004, the Research Unit for General Practice at the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University has conducted several studies into burnout among general practitioners.

The findings are published in the British Journal of General Practice.

Source: Aarhus University


MDs With More Severely Ill Patients May See Greater Risk of Burnout

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). MDs With More Severely Ill Patients May See Greater Risk of Burnout. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2020 (Originally: 10 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Feb 2020
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