THURSDAY, May 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Thoracic surgeons have high career satisfaction, but more than half report symptoms of burnout and depression, according to a study published online May 14 in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

John S. Ikonomidis, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues administered a 70-question survey instrument to 3,834 surgeon members of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (from Sept. 16 to Nov. 1, 2019); 27.9 percent of surveys were returned.

The researchers found that the median age of active thoracic surgeons was 56 years. Women accounted for 8.4 percent of the responders. Overall, 83.5 percent of practicing U.S. surgeons graduated from medical school in the United States. Compared with previous years, educational debt was increased, as were salaries. Overall, 54.1 percent of the survey respondents were extremely satisfied or very satisfied with their current career; compared with past surveys, the overall average hours per week worked decreased. Symptoms of burnout and depression were reported by 55.7 percent of surgeons. For 23.7 percent of surgeons, operative volume decreased during the previous 12 months. Of those who responded, 46.9 and 25.6 percent intended to retire between the ages of 66 and 69 years and at age 70 years or older, respectively.

“Cardiothoracic surgery — as a ‘frontline’ surgical specialty — is at great risk for burnout and depression because of high stress and long working hours,” Ikonomidis said in a statement. “Surgeons must be honest with themselves regarding symptoms and take steps to prevent burnout and depression.”

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