The largest investigation of divorce rates among physicians has resulted in a finding that may surprise many: Physicians are less likely to divorce than are people in other occupations, including lawyers and other health care professionals.
The study, published online February 18 in BMJ, did find, however, that female physicians who worked longer hours had a greater likelihood of divorce than did male physicians.
“It’s been speculated that doctors are more likely to be divorced, but no large-scale study has ever investigated whether that is true,” says Anupam Jena, an HMS assistant professor of health care policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and senior author of the report.
Previous studies finding higher divorce rates among physicians depended on small, nonrepresentative samples, some from a single institutions, the authors note. Those studies were published three or more decades ago. To get a more comparative and contemporary picture of the divorce rate among physicians, the researchers analyzed data from an annual survey of around three million households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Survey results from 2008 through 2013 included responses from approximately 200,000 health professionals, including more than 48,000 physicians. Although 24 percent of physician respondents had a probability of ever being divorced, the probability of being divorced was 25 percent among dentists and 33 percent among nurses. Only pharmacists, at 23 percent, were less likely than physicians to have been divorced.
Female physicians were approximately one-and-a-half times more likely to be divorced than male physicians of a similar age. Female physicians who reported working more than forty hours per week had a higher probability of being divorced than those working fewer hours. The apparent impact of hours worked on divorce incidence was the opposite for males.
Photo: Mattias Paludi