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Med J Aust. 1998 Aug 3;169(3):133-7.

The stress of metropolitan general practice.

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Department of Community Medicine and General Practice, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC.



To identify the work-related stressors of Australian metropolitan general practitioners (GPs).


A descriptive postal survey of metropolitan GPs from all States and Territories selected at random from the Health Insurance Commission database.


296 of 464 GPs (64%) surveyed in June 1996; 67% were male; 87% worked full-time (more than 6 sessions per week).


Frequency and severity of work stressors in general practice; overall feelings of stress at work in the past 12 months; effects of the stressors on work satisfaction; contribution of work stress to overall life stress; responses to the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) as potential correlates of occupational stress.


"Time pressure to see patients" was the most frequently reported stressor. Threat of litigation was perceived as the most severe stressor. Of the top 10 severe stressors, seven were also in the top 10 for stressor frequency. Work was the major stressor in GPs' lives. The GHQ scores did not correlate significantly with major stress outcome measures, but 12.8% of GPs had scores indicative of severe psychiatric disturbance. Fifty per cent of respondents had considered leaving their current workplace and 53% had considered abandoning general practice because of occupational stress. GPs working 6 or more sessions per week were more likely to be moderately or severely stressed than those working part-time (P< 0.02, Fisher's exact test). Those who had considered leaving their current workplace or careers were also more likely to be moderately or severely stressed (P< 0.0001, Fisher's exact test).


The most frequent and relatively severe stressful events in general practice involved time pressures. There are implications for government, which, through remuneration policies, might influence GPs to work at a rate beyond their capacity to cope. Strategies are required to manage or prevent stress in metropolitan GPs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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