February 24, 2015

Doctors, nurses, or execs: Who's more likely to get divorced?

Daily Briefing

Although some reports suggest doctors get divorced at a disproportionately high rate compared to those working in other professions, a study published last week in BMJ found that physicians actually have a relatively low divorce rate compared to individuals in other careers.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. They looked at the rates of divorce for 6.3 million individuals in non-health care related professions, as well as 250,000 physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, and health care executives.

Why to marry someone your own age: It reduces divorce

Specifically, the researchers found that the likelihood for divorce for various professions was:

  • 35% for all non-health care workers;
  • 33% for nurses;
  • 31% for health care executives;
  • 27% for lawyers;
  • 25% for dentists;
  • 24% for physicians; and
  • 23% for pharmacists.

The data also show that female physicians are more likely to be divorced than their male counterparts, possibly because they are forced to make more choices related to work-life balance, according to lead author Anupam Jena of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"Females traditionally bear more of the household and child-rearing responsibilities on average," Jena tells the Washington Post. For "female physicians, if they have to do both that and maintain a job as a physician, that could lead to a lot of stress and lead to higher rates of divorce."

The researchers say prospective physicians shouldn’t overly worry about divorce rates because of the stress of the job, but that female doctors should remain "cognizant" of the possible stressors unique to their situations (Izadi, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 2/19; Jena et al., BMJ study, 2/18).

The takeaway: While physician divorce rates may not exceed that of workers in other fields, data show that female doctors tend to get divorced at higher rates than their male counterparts, raising questions about possible work-life balance pressures for women in the health care industry.

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