Physician marriages: Time spent together predicts spouse happiness

Despite the strains a career in medicine can put on family time and relationships, most individuals who are in long-term relationships with physicians are happy enough to say they'd still marry a doctor if they had a chance to do it over, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Highlights of the 2011 survey of 891 spouses/partners of physicians--a small percentage of whom were doctors themselves--included the following:

  • Almost 87 percent of physicians' spouses or partners said that they were satisfied with their relationships
  • More than 55 percent of the spouses and partners of physicians who responded said that they were "extremely satisfied" with their relationships
  • More than 31 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied"
  • Minutes spent awake with their physician partners each day was the strongest predictor of relationship satisfaction

"The spouses/partners of U.S. physicians report generally high satisfaction with their relationships," wrote Tait D. Shanafelt, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues. "The mean time spent with their physician partners each day appears to be a dominant factor associated with relationship satisfaction and overshadows any specific professional characteristic of the physicians' practice, including specialty area, practice setting, and work hours."

In a previous FiercePracticeManagement article, physician-wellness expert Wayne M. Sotile, clinical psychologist and coauthor of The Medical Marriage and The Resilient Physician newsletter, advised that couples who work in healthcare need to be especially mindful of trading off the role of "stress absorber" in the relationship and scheduling protected time to spend with family.

To learn more:
- see the study from Mayo Clinic Proceedings
- read the story from HealthDay News