Heavy drinking surgeons crumble under the pressure

A call for the profession to get its house in order

Surgeons are crumbling under the pressure with reports of heavy drinking and burnout on the rise, warns a leading Dutch surgeon.

As a profession, they definitely seem to have a problem, says Professor Niek van Dijk, citing various studies that show surgeons drink more than most.

Levels of burnout top 50% and are increasing “at an alarming rate”, he says, noting surgeons are 15% more likely to divorce than the general public.

Surgeons are also 10% more likely to drink heavily, he adds.

Half of surgeons over the age of 50 have health problems, including depression, and they have higher rates of suicide idealisation than other workers.

Writing in the Journal of ISAKOS, Professor van Dijk says long working hours, increasing amounts of red tape, the ever-present threat of litigation, and more demanding and less forgiving patient have all piled on the stress for surgeons.