Debt And Stress Main Reasons Vets Don’t Recommend Profession To Others

by | 02.23.2018 | 11:22am

Less than half of all veterinarians would recommend their chosen profession to a family member or friend, reports Merck Animal Health. In a controlled study of veterinarians designed to quantify the prevalence of stress and mental illness in the veterinary profession, Merck sought to compare the findings to both previous studies and to the general United States population.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) collaborated on the study, which found that veterinarians aged 45 and younger are more likely to experience serious psychological distress. Because of this, only 27 percent said they would endorse the profession to a friend or family member.

Study investigator Dr. Linda Lord notes that the survey asked veterinarians about their well-being, not just their mental health alone, which is a broader measure of life satisfaction and happiness. The study showed that the feelings of younger vets are cause for concern, as they indicate being deeply unhappy. Lord stresses that the industry must work together to promote a healthy lifestyle, which includes debt reduction, access to wellness resources and a work/life balance.

The study, called the Merck Animal Health “Veterinary Wellbeing Study,” showed that one in 20 veterinarians is suffering from serious psychological distress, which is in line with the general U.S. population. When the data is segmented by age, however, it shows that the younger vets are more affected by the emotional and financial stresses of a veterinarian's lifestyle that both older male vets and the general population. The study showed that depression (94 percent), burnout (88 percent) and anxiety (83 percent) are the most frequently reported conditions affecting mental health.

High student debt was the top concern among younger vets, with 67 percent of respondents listing it as a critically important issue. In 2017, the AVMA reported that the average debt of a graduating veterinary student was $138,000—nearly twice the average income of a starting veterinarian's salary.

The next most-concerning issues were stress levels (cited by 53 percent of respondents) and suicide rates (cited by 52 percent of respondents as a concern). Poor mental health is closely associated with professional stresses like a poor work/life balance, excessive work hours and student debt. Only half of vets with severe psychological distress are seeing help. A factor for this low number seeking assistance include few employee assistance programs.

The survey results showed that vets today do not endorse their profession. Only 41 percent of vets would recommend their profession to family and friends—even those who score well on mental health and well-being don't recommend becoming a vet to others. Only 24 percent of vets 34 and younger recommend their job choice. However, of veterinarians 65 and older, 62 percent would recommend their profession.

Read more at Feedstuffs.

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