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Physician Burnout Rate at Mass General More Than Doubled Between 2019 and 2021

Key findings

  • This survey study examined the prevalence of burnout among physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital at three time points: 2017, 2019, and 2021
  • To detect patterns of burnout more precisely than in past cross-sectional studies, the analysis included only the 1,373 physicians who participated in all three surveys
  • The rate of burnout, defined as high scores on two of the three subscales of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, was 44% in 2017 and 50% in 2021; the odds of burnout doubled from 2019 (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.70–2.60 vs. 2019)
  • Female sex, working in primary care, and <10 years of experience in medicine were significantly associated with an increased risk of burnout

Research suggests the U.S. physician burnout rate is increasing nationally, but the analyses are subject to the potential biases common to any survey method. For example, physicians with more years of experience have less burnout—and physicians with a high level of burnout are more likely to leave medicine—so retirements and career changes can alter the composition of a sample.

To detect burnout patterns more precisely than in past studies, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital followed the same physicians for five years. Their survey findings confirm and extend earlier reports that physician burnout increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcus V. Ortega, MD, a urogynecologist in the Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery Program, Jason H. Wasfy, MD, MPhilmedical director of the Mass General Physicians Organization and director of quality and analytics for the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center, and colleagues published the data in JAMA Network Open.


Every two years, the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization surveys its physician members to gauge their perceptions of the hospital's functioning.

The survey encompasses four domains: physician satisfaction with their career and compensation, physician well-being assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, administrative workload on physicians, and contentment with leadership and diversity. The MBI evaluates physician burnout using three subscales: Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Professional Efficacy.

In 2017, 2019, and 2021, the response rates were 93%, 93%, and 92%, respectively. The data set is deidentified, but physician data can be linked over time before deidentification, so physicians new to Mass General after 2017 and those who left were excluded. In addition, it was possible to control for the association of outcomes from the same physician over the study period.

This analysis included the 1,373 physicians who participated in all three surveys. Physicians were determined each year to be burned out or not, with burnout defined as a high score on two of the three MBI subscales.

Burnout Rates

The burnout rate decreased from 44% in 2017 to 42% in 2019, then increased to 50% in 2021. This pattern was consistent across all demographic variables and specialty groups.

The burnout rate for 2017 was not statistically different from that in 2019, but in 2021, the rate increased significantly (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.70–2.60).

35% of physicians did not report burnout in any of the surveys, whereas 27% reported burnout in all three surveys.

Factors Affecting Burnout

Significantly higher burnout rates were associated with the following:

  • Female sex (OR, 1.47 vs. male sex)
  • Working in primary care (OR, 2.82 vs. other internal medicine specialties)

Physicians with more experience had lower burnout rates (e.g., OR, 0.21 for those with >30 years of experience vs. those with <10 years).


Increasing physician burnout represents a threat to the ability of the U.S. healthcare system to care for patients and needs urgent solutions.

greater burnout rate among physicians in 2021 than in 2019

greater burnout rate among female physicians than male physicians

greater burnout rate among primary care physicians than other specialists in internal medicine

Learn about the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center

Refer a patient to the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center


Nasrien Ibrahim, MD, observes that physicians can lose themselves in their work and burnout. It is vital that doctors take care of themselves and engage in life outside of work so that they can be better role models for their patients.


By reviewing data on 394,536 people tested for COVID-19 before vaccines became available, physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that among tested patients, low-income patients and people of color in the US are more likely to have been infected.