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The prevalence of burnout and depression in medical doctors working in the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality community healthcare clinics and district hospitals of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape: a cross-sectional study

L Rossouw
S Seedat
RA Emsley
S Suliman
D Hagemeister


Aim: This study investigated burnout and depression in medical doctors in the context of work-related conditions and the role of resilience as a modifiable factor.
Method: A cross-sectional, observational study was conducted on consenting medical doctors (n = 132) working at Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality primary healthcare facilities of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape. Data were collected from doctors at 27 facilities by means of a self-administered questionnaire battery, containing socio-demographic information, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC).
Results: Of 132 doctors included in the analysis, 76% experienced burnout, as indicated by high scores in either the emotional exhaustion or depersonalisation subscales. In addition, 27% of doctors had cut-off scores on the BDI indicating moderate depression, while 3% were identified to have severe depression. The number of hours, work load, working conditions and system-related frustrations were ranked as the most important contributing factors to burnout. More experienced doctors and those with higher resilience scores had lower levels of burnout, as evident by their lower scores in the emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation domains of the MBI.
Conclusion: Both burnout and depression are prevalent problems in doctors working at district level and in communities. Resilience appears to be protective and may be a useful target for future intervention.

Keywords: depression, burnout, stress, physician, medical doctor