Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Lonely Lives Of Anesthesiologists

Medscape has just released its latest clickbait physician survey. This time it's the 2018 Lifestyle and Happiness report. Who wouldn't want to click on a link with that title? While we'd like to think that doctors are all living lives filled with milk and honey, doctors do in fact possess varying degrees of contentment.

According to this poll of over 15,000 doctors, exactly half say they are extremely or very happy outside of work. Only ten percent claim they are extremely or very unhappy in their personal lives.

Who are these happy doctors? The top four are in Allergy and Immunology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, and Ophthalmology. Notice these are the fields where doctors may have more free time away from the hospital than most. About sixty percent of these doctors claim to be very happy.

The most unhappy doctors work in Cardiology, Public Health, Oncology, and Infectious Disease. Here, less than half are happy outside of work. The nature of their work, dealing with sick cancer and heart patients, probably contribute to their ennui. Anesthesiologists wind up in the middle of the pack, with 50% stating they are happy outside work. This is about the same as previous surveys.

When asked if they are introverted or extroverted, a large plurality said they are a little bit of both. The most introverted physicians are in Public Health, Pathology, Rheumatology, and Public Health. The most extroverted doctors are pretty predictable: General Surgery, Urology, OB/GYN, and Gastroenterology. In general, doctors who go into a procedural field tend to be more gregarious in my experience. Interestingly anesthesiologists are neither the most introverted or extroverted. We're just vanilla.

Maybe that explains why anesthesiologists have so few friends. When asked how many close friends they have, the doctors mostly answered between 1 to 3 friends or 4 to 6 friends. But when broken down by physicians with three or fewer close friends, anesthesiologists ranked near the top. The top four most lonely doctors are Pathology, Critical Care, Radiology, and Anesthesiology. This tends to feed into the perception that pathologists, radiologists, and anesthesiologists are more socially awkward than their more outgoing colleagues like the surgeons.

Perhaps we need to shed some of our fuddy duddy image and live it up a little. While we like to be perceived as the doctors who most care about patient safety, maybe we should also be the doctors who care about where the next kegger is going to take place. With the best paying job in America, we should try to be the life of the party for once.


  1. Thank you for writing about the different medical specialties! I'm a med student in my last year, but I really love anesthesiology and also critical care. I know I can do critical care after anesthesiology as a fellowship, but I heard there aren't as many private practice jobs in critical care coming from anesthesiology as there are coming from IM then pulmonary & critical care. I wanted to ask you what you think about the two, anesthesiology & critical care vs. pulmonary & critical care? Any thoughts about which would be the better for the future if I like both equally? I have met cool and fun people in both! Thanks! :)

    1. I’m not sure I agree with you that there are fewer jobs for anesthesia critical care compared to pulm critical care. I have not seen such a statistic. Of course I’m biased towards anesthesia critical care. But if you read one of my old posts about why I went into anesthesia, you’ll see that I couldn’t stand internal medicine. The thought of going through years of IM then more years of pulmonary fellowship training would be pure torture. At least with anesthesia CC you have the opportunity to work in the OR which is infinitely more interesting than rounding on your umpteenth patient with poorly controlled diabetes and hypertension.