Alcohol Abuse Is High Among Surgeons

By Valerie Tejeda 02/23/12

Surgeons, particularly female ones, are more likely to abuse alcohol than the rest of the population—and mistakes get made.

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It's worrying news for anyone going under the knife: surgeons are more likely than the rest of us to struggle with alcohol problems—and all the more so if they are female. Researchers have found that 15% of surgeons have alcohol abuse problems; among the general population, that figure is around 9%. And those surgeons who struggle with alcoholism had a 45% chance of recently making a major medical error. Among those surveyed, 14% of male surgeons and 25% of female surgeons showed signs of alcohol abuse. "Observations from previous studies show that the stress of being a surgeon, and balancing professional and personal obligations, is much more prevalent in female than male surgeons," says Dr. Michael Oreskovich at the University of Washington, who surveyed over 25,000 surgeons during his research. He adds that overall, "The nature of the beast is that the percent of emergencies, the percent of after hours work, and actual scheduled work itself all require an energy and concentration that is really different than a lot of the other specialties." Edward Livingston, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who wasn't involved in the study, agrees: "Surgery is a stressful business. There are people who turn to alcohol to help deal with their stress." And Oreskovich believes that his figures probably underestimate the number of surgeons with alcohol problems, due to the shame and guilt associated with alcoholism in the medical field.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.