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RACGP Submission to the Medical Board of Australia: Funding of external doctors’ health programs

10 April 2012

Most medical students/trainees/practitioners’ physical health status is similar to that of people in advantaged socio-economic groups. Some studies also suggest that they are less likely than the general population to suffer lifestyle-related illnesses.

However, there is evidence that, when compared with the general population and other professions, medical practitioners are at greater risk of stress-related problems including burn-out (16%-36%), anxiety disorders (18%-55%), depression (14%-60%), substance use and are more susceptible to suicide.

Overall, medical practitioners tend to:

  • persist despite difficulties experienced – that is, overwork, continue working while ill, and deny or minimise the symptoms and consequences of their illness
  • self diagnose – between one quarter and almost all doctors surveyed by various researchers reported “self-treatment”
  • self-medicate – in the past, some studies have shown that approximately 10% of medical practitioners self-prescribe particularly among doctors with moderate to severe depression who are more likely to prescribe their own antidepressants (30%) compared to doctors with minimal to mild depression (9%).

There is a need to improve the way medical students/trainees and practitioners’ mental health and overall wellbeing is promoted at each stage of their professional lives. Hence, the RACGP strongly believes that there is a need to support the continuation of Australian doctors’ health programs.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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