Female Neurologists Have Higher Job Burnout Than Male Neurologists

stressed woman at her desk
stressed woman at her desk
Investigators analyzed burnout, career satisfaction, and well-being among participating neurologists to determine differences between practicing male and female neurologists.

Female practicing neurologists tend to report higher rates of burnout, job dissatisfaction, and more fatigue than their male colleagues, according to a study of American Academy of Neurology (AAN) members published in Neurology.

Practicing neurologists who were members of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and who resided in the United States were selected for the survey (N=1671). A total of 57 questions regarding personal and professional characteristics, including instruments that assessed burnout and career satisfaction, were included in the survey questionnaire. The 22-item Maslach Burnout Inventory–Human Services Survey was used to assess burnout, including domains related to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. For this study, participants with burnout scored a ≥27 or ≥10 score on the exhaustion or depersonalization subscales, respectively.

Compared with their male counterparts, female neurologists were less likely to practice in the south (−5%; P <.05), more likely to be in an academic setting (+7%; P <.05), less likely to identify themselves as a general neurologist (−13%; P <.05), and more likely to be paid a salary with a bonus (+6%) as well as less likely to have a pure production-based income (−9%) (both P <.05). In addition, female neurologists had a higher burnout rate (+7%; P =.007), attributed to higher scores on the emotional exhaustion domain (+3%; P <.001). Women also had 1 lower percentage point for the personal accomplishment domain compared with male neurologists (P =.003). A fewer number of women reported job satisfaction compared with men (P =.026)

In female vs male neurologists, researchers found lower quality of life (95% CI, 0.06-0.50), more fatigue (95% CI, 0.17-0.66), and lower work-life balance (P <.001). Women <40 years old were less likely to report interest in becoming a physician again compared with men in the same age group (P <.05). In addition, women between the ages of 40 and 49 years compared with men of the same ages reported lower work-life balance satisfaction (P <.05). The multivariable analysis found that a lower burnout risk was associated with participants reporting greater autonomy (P <.001), meaningful work (P <.001), reasonable amount of direct clerical tasks (P <.001), and effective support staff (P =.009).

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Limitations of the study included the use of self-reported data and the inclusion of only practicing neurologists in the United States, which may reduce generalizability.

The differences observed in this study between female and male neurologists “need to be addressed at the individual, work unit, organization, and national levels to increase the attractiveness of neurology as a career choice, to ensure the well-being of our current and future neurologist workforce, and, most importantly, to optimize care for patients with neurologic disorders,” the researchers wrote.


LaFaver K, Miyasaki JM, Keran CM, et al. Age and sex differences in burnout, career satisfaction, and well-being in US neurologists. Neurology. 2018;91(20):e1928-e1941.