Money concerns prompt burnout among radiology residents

Symptoms associated with burnout in radiology residents--such as emotional exhaustion, social detachment, and feelings of low personal achievement--can be traced to financial concerns, according to a study published in the May issue of Academic Radiology.

In the study, researcher--led by Michael McNeeley, M.D. of the department of radiology at the University of Washington in Seattle--collected survey data from 266 trainee members from the Association of University Radiologists to assess symptoms of burnout, as well as attitudes toward money and compensation.

"Most radiology residents reported high levels of personal achievement but routine symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization," the authors reported. While increasing levels of household debt were correlated with symptoms of depersonalization and lower reported quality of life, they found that the subjective financial experience more reliably indicated emotional wellbeing. For example, subjective self-assessments of financial strain were the best predictors of symptoms of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and a lower self-reported quality of life, the authors said.

"The objective financial data, specifically household income and debt levels, were somewhat predictive of burnout, but it was the responses they had to their subjective self-assessment of financial scarcity--those were the ones that were really strongly predictive," McNeeley told

The researchers found that 42 percent of the residents reported having difficulty paying for mandatory work-related expenses, while 25 percent had trouble paying for rent and utilities. Fifty-three percent described symptoms of emotional exhaustion while 49 percent said they had feelings of depersonalization at least once a week.

Additionally, more than half of respondents (62 percent) reported their quality of life was "generally good" or as "good as it can be," while 11 percent said it was bad or "generally bad." The remaining 27 percent were neutral on the subject.

"Finances may be an underappreciated influence on resident burnout, and subjective feelings of financial scarcity could outweigh the impact of objective indebtedness," the authors concluded.

"If your job doesn't provide you with time structure, a sense of collective purpose, social contact, status, and stimulating activity, and if you're also burdened with a sense of financial scarcity, you're probably going to be prone to burnout ... even if your outside life and your home life is totally satisfactory," McNeeley told

To learn more:
- read the study abstract in Academic Radiology
- see the article in

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