Assessing Loneliness and Other Types of Emotional Distress among Practicing Physicians


  • Samuel Ofei-Dodoo, Ph.D., MPA
  • Christopher Ebberwein, Ph.D.
  • Rick Kellerman, M.D.



Introduction. Loneliness has been linked to clinician burnout and other types of emotional distress. Research assessing the prevalence of loneliness among physicians is growing. Little is known, however, about how loneliness relates to other types of emotional distress among practicing physicians. The objectives of the study were to determine the prevalence of loneliness, and to explore the relationship between loneliness, burnout, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation among active member physicians of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County (MSSC).

Methods. The study involved a convenience sample of 197 practicing physicians who were active members of the MSSC. The 3-item University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale, the Abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory, and 2-item Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire were used to measure prevalence of loneliness, manifestations of burnout, and symptoms of depression, respectively.

Results. Using an email survey, 442 practicing physicians received an invitation to participate; 197 (44%) completed the survey. The prevalence of loneliness was 43%. Loneliness prevalence was associated positively with age (p = 0.017) and more likely in those who reported manifestations of burnout (p < 0.01) or screened positive for depression (p < 0.01). Depression (OR = 2.24; 95% CI, 0.97-5.19) and emotional exhaustion (OR = 1.05; 95% CI, 0.39-2.84) were significantly associated with loneliness, including when adjusted for participants’ sex, age, and duty hours.

Conclusion. Loneliness is prevalent among active member physicians of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County. Given that loneliness is associated with burnout and other emotional distress, there is an important need to understand its implications better.






Original Research