A study reveals doctors who have yet to take a holiday in the previous year and are working around the clock are far more likely to succumb to anxiety and depression - both of which can compromise judgments in the treatment of their patients.
The study which was led by a team of Sydney-based scientists also discovered that, independent male practitioners, ages 40 to 59 were more likely to indulge in alcohol drinking at health-compromising levels.
Interestingly, the study findings which were published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed that non-Australia trained doctors were at lower risk of having a drinking problem.
A total of 2,999 doctors, who are specialists and GPs, were interviewed in an effort to assess the factors related with psychiatric problems and dangerous use of alcohol among Australian doctors.
According to Dr Louise Nash, from the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, the factors that heavily influence the doctors' mental health include having a current medico-legal matter, not taking a holiday in the last year, long hours of working, the type of specialty and having a neurotic or introverted personality.
A total of 65 per cent doctors from the study had some form of medico-legal issue, 31 per cent had experienced a claim of compensation, and 30 per cent had experienced a complaint made to health-care complaints organization.
Fourteen per cent of doctors were currently involved in a medico-legal issue, and ten per cent had experienced a coronial inquiry.
Dr Nash said the stressful aspect of medical practice today is medico-legal involvements in the form of lawsuits, complaints and inquiries.
He advised, Doctors should reflect on their hours of work and need for holidays.
The quality of care patients receive depend on the mental state of their general practitioners, and doctors should be educated on how to handle medico-legal procedures effectively, said Dr Nash.