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Personality and burnout among primary care physicians: an international study

Authors Brown PA, Slater M, Lofters A

Received 27 November 2018

Accepted for publication 15 January 2019

Published 18 March 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 169—177

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S195633

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Ms Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Paul A Brown,1 Morgan Slater,2 Aisha Lofters2,3

1Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica; 2Department of Family and Community Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada; 3Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Purpose: Burnout is a syndrome comprised of three major dimensions, namely, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Its etiology appears to be multifactorial, involving work-related and personal factors including personality traits. Personality has been associated with burnout among various physician groups; however, this has not been studied well amongst primary care physicians. This study therefore aimed to investigate the association between personality type and burnout in primary care physicians in Canada and Jamaica.
Methods: This cross-sectional study involved primary care physicians in Canada and Jamaica. Participants completed a questionnaire that included the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey and The Big Five Inventory. Responses were analyzed to determine relationships between burnout, personality type, and various demographic factors.
Results: Seventy-seven physicians participated in the study. Approximately 38% of participants reported low levels of accomplishment, 34% reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, and 20% reported high levels of depersonalization, all equating to high levels of burnout. Neuroticism was negatively correlated with personal accomplishment (P<0.01) and positively correlated with emotional exhaustion (P≤0.001) and depersonalization (P<0.01). Agreeableness (P<0.05) and conscientiousness (P<0.05) were positively correlated with accomplishment and both were negatively correlated with depersonalization (P<0.01 and P<0.05, respectively).
Conclusion: In this multinational study, we found that burnout was a common problem among primary care physicians. Personality, particularly neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, impacts physician burnout. Strategies that modulate the impact of personality on burnout may be beneficial for optimal health care delivery.

Keywords: personality types, occupational health, neuroticism, physician burnout


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