Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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What’s up doc? A national cross-sectional study of psychological wellbeing of hospital doctors in Ireland.

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Version 2 2021-11-29, 14:10
Version 1 2019-11-22, 15:32
journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-29, 14:10 authored by Blanaid HayesBlanaid Hayes, Lucia Prihodova, Gillian Walsh, Frank DoyleFrank Doyle, Sally Doherty

Objectives To measure levels of psychological distress, psychological wellbeing and self-stigma in hospital doctors in Ireland.

Design National cross-sectional study of randomised sample of hospital doctors. Participants provided sociodemographic data (age, sex, marital status), work grade (consultant, higher/basic specialist trainee), specialty and work hours and completed well-being questionnaires (the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale, WHO Well-being Index, General Health Questionnaire) and single-item scales on self-rated health and self-stigma.

Setting Irish publicly funded hospitals and residential institutions.

Participants 1749 doctors (response rate of 55%). All hospital specialties were represented except radiology.

Results Half of participants were men (50.5%). Mean hours worked per week were 57 hours. Over half (52%) rated their health as very good/excellent, while 50.5% reported positive subjective well-being (WHO-5). Over a third (35%) experienced psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire 12). Severe/extremely severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were evident in 7.2%, 6.1% and 9.5% of participants (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale 21). Symptoms of distress, depression, anxiety and stress were significantly higher and levels of well-being were significantly lower in trainees compared with consultants, and this was not accounted for by differences in sociodemographic variables. Self-stigma was present in 68.4%.

Conclusions The work hours of doctors working in Irish hospitals were in excess of European Working Time Directive’s requirements. Just over half of hospital doctors in Ireland had positive well-being. Compared with international evidence, they had higher levels of psychological distress but slightly lower symptoms of depression and anxiety. Two-thirds of respondents reported self-stigma, which is likely to be a barrier to accessing care. These findings have implications for the design of support services for doctors, for discussions on quality of patient care and for future research.


Financial support was provided by the Human Resources National Directorate of the Health Service Executive as well as by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the College of Anaesthetists. This covered the cost of consumables, data entry to SPSS and publication.



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Hayes B, Prihodova L, Walsh G, Doyle F, Doherty S. What’s up doc? A national cross-sectional study of psychological wellbeing of hospital doctors in Ireland. BMJ Open. 2017;7(10):e018023.

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  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Health Psychology

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