Feb 22, 2024 - Health

Burnout is worse for women health care workers

Illustrated collage of people with their heads in their hands, anonymous faces and brain scans.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Health care's big burnout problem is significantly worse for women working in the field than men, according to a new comprehensive review of research on health care worker wellbeing.

Why it matters: Burnout pushes some exhausted health care workers out of the industry, and it can also increase the risk of medical errors that put patients in danger.

What they did: George Washington University researchers reviewed 71 studies — from across 26 countries over more than four decades — on the wellbeing of women working as physicians, clinical social workers and mental health providers.

What they found: Lack of control over work and family caregiving responsibilities that often fall on women both appeared in about a quarter of studies as factors directly harming women health care workers' wellbeing.

  • Gender inequality was also a major factor. For instance, several studies cite fewer opportunities for women to advance in their health care careers compared with men with similar qualifications as a cause of burnout.
  • The analysis, published in Global Advances in Integrative Medicine and Health, also found that women expend more emotional energy than men to care for patients with complex medical problems.
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