An interesting article titled “Divorce among physicians and other healthcare professionals in the United States: analysis of census survey data,” by Ly et al. appearing in BMJ (350: h706; 2015) discusses some rates of divorce among physicians and dentists compared with other professions in the United States of America. The authors were motivated to perform the work because it has been speculated that long hours and unpredictable work hours often worked by doctors leads to more divorces.
In the study the authors looked at data by the US Census Bureau from 2008 to 2013. The data included age, sex, race, current marital status, occupation, annual income, and weekly hours usually worked. The authors included only those who were ages 25 or greater. Physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, and healthcare executives were identified based on a self reported occupation. The sample included 48,881 physicians, 10,086 dentists, 13,883 pharmacists, 159,044 nurses, 18,920 healthcare executives, 59,284 lawyers, and 6,339,610 other professionals not part of the other categories. The data included the year in which the person became married for their most recent marriage, whether or not the person had divorced within the past year, and the number of times the person had been married. Based on this data the authors characterized divorce in three different ways. The first was whether the person was currently divorced – to allow for the the probability of being divorced at the time of the survey. The second was whether the person had ever been divorced – to allow for the probability of being ever divorced. The third was whether the person had divorced within the past year- to allow for the probability of divorcing in the past year. The authors performed statistical analysis and constructed multivariable logistic models of divorce prevalence (ever been divorced) and divorce incidence (divorced in the past year).
Some interesting results from the study include that the average annual income of physicians was $223,427, dentists was $189,222, lawyers was $167,015, healthcare executives was $143,913, pharmacists was $109,975, nurses was $63,995, and everyone used combined was $53,266. Physicians reported working an average number of hours of 50.4 per week while dentists reported working an average number of hours of 37.6 per week. The average number of hours reported of work per week for pharmacists was 38.5 hours, for nurses was 37.1 hours, for healthcare executives was 46 hours, for lawyers was 45.1 hours, and for everyone else combined was 39.8 hours. Physicians and dentists were reported as 68.3% and 75.9% male respectively. The unadjusted probability of being currently divorced at the time of the survey was 7.7% among physicians, 8.0% among dentists, 8.8% among pharmacists, 17.8% among nurses, 12.7% among healthcare executives, 10.7% among lawyers, and 17.2% among everyone else. The percentage of people who reported ever being divorced at the time of survey was 22.1% among physicians, 22.9% among dentists, 21.5% among pharmacists, 37.0% among nurses, 31.3% among healthcare executives, 27.7% among lawyers, and 36.6% among everyone else. The percentage of people who reported being divorced within the past year was 1.01% among physicians, 0.87% among dentists, 1.09% among pharmacists, 1.64% among nurses, 1.15% among healthcare executives, 1.29% among lawyers, and 1.74% among everyone else combined.
The authors also adjusted for the number of years since the person had been married to compute an adjusted probability of being ever divorced of 24.3% among physicians, 25.2% among dentists, 22.9% among pharmacists, 33.0% among nurses, 30.0% among healthcare executives, 26.9% among lawyers, and 35% among everyone else and to also compute an adjusted probability of becoming divorced in the past year of 1.0% among physicians, 1.0% among dentists, 1.0% among pharmacists, 1.3% among nurses, 1.1% among healthcare executives, 1.2% among lawyers, and 1.4% among everyone else. The authors also calculated that female physicians had higher adjusted odds of being ever divorced or divorced in the past year compared with male physicians (adjusted odds ratio of being ever divorced 1.51 compared with males; adjusted odds ratio of divorcing in past year 1.46 compared with males). Further they calculated that for physicians the adjusted odds of being ever divorced decreased with weekly hours worked but this did not hold true for the adjusted odds of being divorced in the past year. The authors also calculated that female physicians who worked more than 40 hours a week had a higher probability of being ever divorced when compared to female physicians who worked less than 40 hours a week. However, male physicians who worked more than 40 hours a week had lower odds of being ever divorced than male physicians who worked less than 40 hours a week. Unfortunately such similar calculations with the odds ratio for dentists and/or other professions was not performed by the authors even though it appears their methodology would have allowed them to do so.
In summary, the authors found that the the prevalence and incidence of divorce among physicians were similar to pharmacists and dentists and quite a bit lower than that of nurses, healthcare executives, lawyers, and other non-healthcare professionals. The authors state
“…we found no evidence that physicians in the United States have a higher prevalence or incidence of divorce than other healthcare and non-healthcare professionals.”
The authors also found that female physicians were substantially more likely to be divorced than male physicians.
The authors also note several limitations of their study including that the study does not follow people longitudinally. The authors do point out that they were unable to assess an evaluation of marital quality and this may reveal differences that a divorce study could not. Another limitation is that specialty of a physician was not assessed. Yet another limitation is that dual physician couples were not assessed and may have differences with marital satisfaction. Even though this study was primarily designed to look at divorce among physicians, it yielded some interesting results about dentists as well. As has been discussed in the article tiled Divorce and Dentistry: Repairing Broken Relationships even though divorce among dentists is lower than many other professions it is still important to understand the common reasons that a marriage of a dentist can end in divorce. Even though physicians and dentists work many hours, nowadays with online marriage counseling it is possible to conveniently work with a therapist to improve martial satisfactions so a divorce does not happen. No one wants to become a statistic and end up in a similar study in the future comparing physician and dentist divorce rates and/or marital satisfaction with other professions.