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Physician Mental Health Has Declined During the Pandemic

Findings show an increase in mental health, substance use-related visits among Canadian physicians

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with a substantial increase in mental health and substance use visits among physicians, according to a study published online Jan. 21 in JAMA Network Open.

Daniel T. Myran, M.D., M.P.H., from Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, and colleagues examined the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in outpatient health care visits by physicians related to mental health and substance use. The analysis included health administrative data for 34,055 physicians, residents, and fellows eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

The researchers found that the annual crude number of visits per 1,000 physicians increased by 27 percent (816.8 prepandemic to 1,037.5 during the pandemic; adjusted incident rate ratio [IRR] per physician, 1.13). There was an increase in the absolute proportion of physicians with one or more mental health and substance use visits within a year (12.3 percent prepandemic to 13.4 percent during the pandemic; adjusted odds ratio, 1.08). Compared with physicians with a prior mental health and substance use history, the relative increase was significantly greater in physicians without a prior history (adjusted IRR, 1.72).

“Physician mental health may have worsened during the pandemic, highlighting a potential greater requirement for access to mental health services and system level change,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to AstraZeneca.

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