Send to

Choose Destination
Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2011 Jun;396(5):669-76. doi: 10.1007/s00423-011-0791-x. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Workload and quality of life of surgeons. Results and implications of a large-scale survey by the German Society of Surgery.

Author information

Department of Thoracic Surgery, Sozialstiftung Bamberg, Buger Str. 80, 96049, Bamberg, Germany.



Quality of life is of vital importance for patients undergoing surgery. However, little is known about the quality of life of surgeons who are facing a stressful and dramatically changing working environment. For this reason, this large-scale study investigated the quality of life (QL) of surgeons in Germany in the context of occupational, private, and system-related risk factors.


The study population consisted of attendees (surgeons, non-surgical physicians, medical students) of the nine major annual conferences of the German Society of Surgery between 2008 and 2009. Participants filled in a single questionnaire including study-specific questions (demographic variables, professional position, and occupational situation) and a standardized quality of life instrument (Profiles of quality of life of the chronically ill, PLC). Surgeons' responses with regard to their professional situation and their quality of life were contrasted with those of the two controls (non-surgical physicians, medical students). Furthermore, PLC scores were compared with German population reference data and with reference data of several patient groups.


Individuals (3,652) (2,991 surgeons, 561 non-surgical physicians, 100 medical students) participated in this study. The average age of surgeons and non-surgeons was in the low forties. In terms of professional qualifications, the majority of surgeons were residents (30%) and the majority of non-surgeons consultants in private practice (38%). Sixty-eight percent of the surgeons, only 39% of the non-surgeons worked more than 60 h per week on average (p < 0.001). Surgeons regarded their administrative workload as high (67% vs. controls 57%, p < 0.001). Surgeons reported restrictions on their private and family life due to work overload, more so than non-surgeons (74% vs. 59%, p < 0.001). Of the surgeons, 40% regarded their quality of life as worse than that of the general public (non-surgeons, 22%; p < 0.001). A third (32%) of the surgeons considered their quality of life even lower than that of their patients (non-surgeons, 17%; p < 0.001). Responses to the PLC quality of life questionnaire confirmed these results, showing score values lower than those of the German population reference data and of several patient groups. Multiple regression analyses showed that the strongest and most consistent influence variable for a low quality of life on all eight quality of life scores were restrictions in private life (range of standardized beta weights beta = 0.259 to 0.325), hierarchical and uncooperative working environment (beta = 0.057 to 0.235), lack of opportunities for continuing education (beta = 0.108 to 0.161), and inadequate salary (beta = 0.036 to 0.172).


Improving the working conditions for surgeons requires a concerted action of all relevant parties, including hospital administrators, insurance companies, and the German Society of Surgery. The present study clearly identified measures that should be taken.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center