General Practitioners (GPs) are increasingly affected by stress-related complaints and burnout. Although many studies have addressed this issue, little is known about the stress burden and burnout rates of postgraduate trainees specialising in General Practice (GP). This cross-sectional study was performed to explore the prevalence and risk of depression, stress and burnout in a large cohort of GP trainees.
All GP trainees enrolled in the postgraduate training programme KWBW Verbundweiterbildung© in southwest Germany were invited to participate. A paper-based survey for the purpose of psychosocial screening was used: Prevalence of depression, perceived stress and burnout were measured with the depression module of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ-20) and Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Additionally, linear regression models were used to analyse the association between sociodemographic characteristics and mental health scales.
N = 211 GP trainees participated in this study (response rate 95%). 75.3% (n = 159) of the participants were female and median age was 34 (IQR 32; 39). GP trainees had a mean PHQ-9 sum score of 5.4 (SD 3.4). Almost 11% (n = 23) reported symptoms of a moderate or moderately severe depression. PSQ-20 revealed moderate level of distress, whereas 20.8% (n = 42) showed a high level of perceived stress with a sum-score higher than .59. GP trainees showed moderate rates of burnout and only 2.5% (n = 5) scored high in all three dimensions of the MBI score. GP trainees showed increased levels of depression, perceived stress and burnout when compared with age-matched general population. Being a woman led to a higher PHQ-9 sum score (p < .05). Higher age was associated with less depersonalisation in the MBI (p < .05).
The results of our study suggest that GP trainees considerably suffer from stress. Some GP trainees were even affected by depression or burnout. To detect and support colleagues at risk, trainees should be supported by early preventive measures such as anti-stress or resilience trainings and mentoring during their training. Prospective longitudinal studies are needed to understand the character and the course of the stress burden among GP trainees.