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5 Interesting Stats from Medscape's Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report

By Anna Mueller, MS05 Apr 2021

To say the past year was rife with challenges is an understatement — especially for the medical community. Physicians around the globe found themselves in some of the most harrowing circumstances of their careers, and many were forced to make near-impossible decisions. But while the vaccine has provided a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, we’re only just beginning to understand the mental and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on hardworking doctors.

Recently, Medscape released its 2021 Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report, and its findings shine a light on how COVID-19 has impacted physicians’ life outside of work.

Here are some of the most interesting statistics:



Before the pandemic, Medscape reported 82% of physicians said they were “somewhat happy” or “very happy” outside of work. Since COVID-19 took hold, that number has dropped by nearly a quarter. Of course, this isn’t surprising. Given the significant increase in job stress, combined with the fear and social isolation many of us have grappled with over the past several months, it’s no wonder doctors aren’t feeling quite as content as they did before.


Physicians know better than anyone the importance of making time for your health and well-being. But it turns out not all physicians are addressing these needs equally. While 39% of male physicians said they focus on wellness most or all of the time, only 28% of female physicians said the same.

One reason for the discrepancy between genders could be an unequal distribution of childcare responsibilities. A sizeable 73% of female doctors said they were somewhat to very conflicted as parents due to work demands, compared to only 54% of male doctors.


Nearly half (47%) of all physicians surveyed said they’d take a salary reduction to enjoy a better work-life balance. And of that group, a whopping 80% said they’d give up more than $10,000 of their salary, with 17% reporting they’d give up more than $50,000. We imagine that, like many of us, living through a pandemic has shone a light on what’s really important — and having more time for family, hobbies, and other pursuits outside work often outweigh a higher salary.


Here’s a rare nugget of optimism: nearly a quarter of physicians said they’re not at all anxious about their future, given COVID-19 — and another 33% said they’re only “slightly anxious.” Just 9% said they’re “very anxious.”

What does this mean? First, it could mean the medical community is encouraged by early vaccine results and recognizes the pandemic may be under control in the coming months, giving them a much-needed reprieve. It could also speak to physicians’ overall resilience in the face of adversity — something many doctors rely on to bring them through difficult experiences at work.


Maybe it’s time everyone took a cue from doctors. Most physicians reported taking at least three weeks of vacation per year, with 20% taking five or more weeks. Only 8% of physicians surveyed said they took less than one week off. And this isn’t a pandemic-driven uptick in vacation time, either — it echoes pre-pandemic data from 2020. In other words, physicians have long recognized the value of time away from work and don’t let their PTO go to waste.

There’s no doubt 2020 was one of the hardest years for everyone — but especially for those on the front lines. It’s no shock physicians are less happy and more stressed than in previous years. But with many doctors maintaining a more positive outlook for the coming months, there’s a good chance 2021 may turn things around.

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