There has been growing concern, fueled in part by recent studies,1 about mental distress and suicide among veterinarians, along with numerous reports of compassion fatigue, burnout, and other forms of job stress.2 In response, many professional organizations, including the AVMA, have launched initiatives to address mental health and wellness.
Still, questions remain as to how serious a problem mental distress is in the veterinary profession, how widespread it is, and whether it has risen to crisis levels. To date, no definitive assessments of the prevalence of serious mental health issues or of wellbeing among veterinarians have been published. Consequently, the authors undertook a survey of a large group of veterinarians representative of the veterinary profession in the United States to measure the prevalence of serious mental distress and determine the level of wellbeing within the profession. The research was conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with the AVMA. To assist with the project, Brakke recruited experts in mental health and social work to help design the survey and analyze the results. Kynetec, a global market research firm specializing in animal health, conducted the survey. Merck Animal Health, a supplier of pharmaceuticals and vaccines to the veterinary industry, sponsored the project and participated in its implementation.
The 3 main goals of the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Survey were to definitively quantify the prevalence of mental illness among veterinarians and compare that prevalence with the prevalence in the general US population of employed adults, identify those segments of the veterinary population most at risk for mental illness and determine factors that negatively and positively impact mental health in veterinarians, and measure the level of wellbeing in the profession and identify factors that contribute to higher levels of wellbeing.
1. Nett RJ, Witte TK, Holzbauer SM, et al. Risk factors for suicide, attitudes toward mental illness, and practice-related stressors among US veterinarians. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:945–955.
2. Dicks M, Bain B. Chipping away at the soul: new data on compassion fatigue—and compassion satisfaction—in veterinary medicine. DVM360 Magazine 2016;Nov:1–5.
3. Kessler RC, Barker PR, Colpe LJ, et al. Screening for serious mental illness in the general population. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003; 60:184–189.
5. Freedman VA. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics’ Wellbeing and Daily Life Supplement (PSID-WB) user guide: final release 1. Ann Arbor, Mich: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 2017.
6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions—III (NESARC-III). Available at: www.niaaa.nih.gov/research/nesarc-iii. Accessed Mar 12, 2018.
8. The Physicians Foundation. 2016 physician survey. Available at: physiciansfoundation.org/research-insights/physician-survey/. Accessed Mar 12, 2018.