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Are doctors happy? Which specialty has the highest satisfaction rate?

Short Answer

According to a 2019 survey done on 5,855 physicians by the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) and Comp Health, the majority of practicing doctors (71%) report that they are happy although 19% say they are very or somewhat unhappy. [1] Furthermore, 61% said that they would still become a physician if they had the chance to live their life again.

More recently according to a 2022 survey by Medscape involving 13,064 doctors across 29 specialties, these are the top ten doctor specialties with the highest job satisfaction rate. [2]

Doctor SpecialityPercentage of doctors that would choose the same specialty again
Dermatology99
Orthopedics97
Plastic Surgery96
Gastroenterology95
Infectious Diseases94
Ophthalmology94
Radiology92
Urology90
Rheumatology89
Cardiology88

Data showing physician’s life enjoyment

57% of physicians report enjoying life to a great extent. Only 1 percent say not at all.

Data on physician’s life satisfaction

42% of physicians agreed that they were satisfied with their life whilst 17% strongly agreed with this statement. The findings also found that 18% of doctors disagreed to some extent confirming the above data. However, in contrast to the data above which showed that 6% of doctors said that they were unhappy, only 3% of doctors strongly disagreed that they were satisfied with life. Perhaps this could be explained because happiness and life satisfaction may be interpreted as different notions.

Data showing job satisfaction attributes for doctors

87% of physicians reported that the most gratifying aspect of their job is interacting with and helping patients. 69% of patients said that problem-solving is the most satisfying aspect.

The next two reasons were more related to personal reasons with 55% reporting that they found personal growth and achievement most satisfying and 51% saying that compensation was their number one attribute of job satisfaction.

What makes doctors happy?

Data showing the major happiness attributes

48% of doctors said that interpersonal relationships contribute the most to their happiness, whilst 20% of physicians said that satisfying work was the biggest reason. Another encouraging finding is that 20% of doctors said that patient satisfaction is the major reason for their happiness.

Having work friends influenced doctors’ happiness. Doctors’ life satisfaction was directly related to the number of work friends they had. Doctors who have “many” work friends are happy (70 percent). Only 39% of doctors without friends were happy. 

Who are the happiest doctors? – Life satisfaction by specialty (%)

As you can see from the table below psychiatry as well as urgent care and emergency medicine has the highest percentage of doctors that are satisfied with their life (82%).

Doctor specialtyLife is satisfied to some extent (Strongly agree/Agree/Slightly agree) %
Urgent Care82
Psychiatry82
Emergency medicine82
Surgery77
Other77
Hospitalist75
OB/GYN75
Primary Care73

Reasons for job unhappiness

Poor Work-life balance

According to the data from the survey, both satisfaction at work and at home are significantly influenced by one another; 58 percent of doctors said their personal lives have an impact on their happiness at work, and 56 percent said that their happiness at home is influenced by their work.

Stress and burnout

Unfortunately, stress and burnout may negatively affect the mental health of some doctors.

Do doctors find their jobs meaningful?

According to a 2017 survey by Career explorer on average, doctors rate the meaningfulness of their work at 3.7/5. When compared to other fields this puts them in the top 34% of careers. [3]

References

[1] AAFP/CompHealth Physician Happiness Survey (2019) https://comphealth.com/resources/physician-happiness-survey/

[2] Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2022: Incomes Gain, Pay Gaps Remain https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-compensation-overview-6015043#18

[3] Are doctors happy? (2017) https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/doctor/satisfaction/

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