Studies suggest a high prevalence of mental illness in physicians. The rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been examined in physicians exposed to traumatic circumstances and physicians in training but never in physicians in regular practice.
To estimate the prevalence of PTSD in physicians practicing in a predominantly rural and remote and medically underserviced region of Canada.
The PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C) was mailed to all 331 physicians in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. A PCL-C score of >or=50 was used to define 'probable' PTSD and >or=30 defined 'possible' PTSD. Additional comments and demographic information were also requested.
Completed questionnaires were received from 159 physicians (48%). The prevalence of probable PTSD was 4.4%. No differences between demographic groups were observed for probable PTSD, but possible PTSD was more frequent in males than females (47.3% versus 20.4%, chi-square = 10.59, P = 0.001). Mean scores were also higher for males than for females (30.4 versus 25.4, 95% confidence interval for the difference: 1.4-8.5, P = 0.006). Respondents identified overwork, insufficient resources and relationships with colleagues and patients as common stressors.
Results suggest a high rate of PTSD in Northwestern Ontario physicians. The prevalence of possible PTSD and mean PCL-C scores are higher in men than in women in this region, which may relate to differences in practice characteristics and the opportunity for exposure to traumatic events.