Two New Studies Show Vets At Risk For Stress And Substance Abuse

1 Comment Posted by Alyssa Noonan in General, Veterinary Medicine on Friday, March 13th, 2009.

Veterinary medicine is just as stressful as any other medical field, but a pair of recent studies – one from Australia and the other from Germany – that has some dour news regarding the personal lives of veterinarians.


First up, there’s the study published this month in the Australian Veterinary Journal, which reports that young veterinarians “experience a significantly higher level of general psychological distress, work-related anxiety and depression.” Of the 2125 Australian veterinarians who took part in the study, at least one-third reported poor psychological health, with younger DMVs more likely to be affected by job-related stress than older veterinarians.


“Anecdotally, veterinarians have a stressful job, dealing with sick animals, upset owners, and the challenges of managing a small business. We found that the average levels of distress were about the same as other professional groups such as doctors. However, about a third of the vets, especially new graduates, had quite high levels of stress, anxiety and depression,” said Dr. Lin Fritschi, the study’s co-author.


You can view the abstract of that study here. Meanwhile, over in Germany, DVM Newsmagazine reports on a recently released study that finds job stress puts veterinarians at risk for substance abuse, including binge drinking and drug and tobacco use.


The study’s findings are based on a survey of 1,060 practicing veterinarians in northern Germany. According to the report, work-related stress, coupled with a lack of personal and family time, led to demoralization, dissatisfaction and a lack of confidence or pride in veterinarians. The study was conducted by the Institution for Statuatory Accident Insurance and Prevention in Hamburg.


All that stress might be driving DVMs to drink, according to Melanie Harling, one of the study’s co-authors. But the emphasis here is on the word “might” – while the study identifies veterinarians as being at risk for coping with stress by drinking or drugging, it did not cite any hard numbers about the rate of substance abuse among veterinarians.


While the studies focus on veterinarians in other countries, it’s not hard to imagine that DVMs in America face similar problems. How do you deal with work-related stress? And what can veterinary schools do to help new veterinarians learn how to cope with stress? Share your comments below.



1 Comment for Two New Studies Show Vets At Risk For Stress And Substance Abuse

Comment by mark | March 31, 2009 at 8:46 am

Most people think that a veterinarian’s job is getting licks and kisses from pets all day long. It’s a very stressful job filled with emergencies all day and well into the night. If you are a large animal veterinarian (farm animals), there is no rest or time off….ever!!

A veterinarian has access to almost any drug. Most veterinary hospitals are well-supplied with a variety of narcotics, from injectable valium to euthanasia solution.

The veterinary profession is wonderful; however, it does have its darker sides. Stress and depression are definitely 2 of the major personal issues.

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