Study: Reading for pleasure combats physician burnout

Residency Program Insider, January 24, 2019

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Recent studies confirm that non-medical reading can combat burnout by increasing empathy and decreasing depersonalization in physicians. In an attempt to determine the impact of reading on burnout, Daniel Marchalik, MD, AMA member, medical director of physician wellbeing at MedStar Health, worked with his colleagues to send a survey to approximately 2,500 doctors. The survey asks questions focused on burnout, demographics, reading habits, and undergraduate curriculum offerings.

The results of the survey showed that those physicians who read fiction performed better in tasks related to theory of mind—a person’s ability to comprehend that others have beliefs, emotions, etc. that are different from their own. Theory of mind tasks are frequently used as to gauge a person’s level of empathy.

Another survey revealed that the number of respondents experiencing emotional exhaustion and depersonalization fell by 19% and 44% respectively among those who read at least one book a month in comparison to those who did not read at all. Results from an unpublished study by Marchalik confirms this relationship, as chances for burnout decreased by 59% among residents who read for pleasure. 

Source: American Medical Association

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