EDUCATION, ETHICS & WELFARE
Mental health in female veterinarians: effects of working hours and having children
Personal, interpersonal and organisational factors have been suggested as possible causes of stress, anxiety and depression for veterinarians. We used established psychological scales to measure (1) levels of distress and work-related stress (anxiety and depression) and (2) the demographic and work characteristics of female veterinarians in relation to anxiety, depression and mental health.
A national cross-sectional survey of a cohort population was conducted and self-administered questionnaires were received from 1017 female veterinarians who completed the mental health section of the survey. Using linear and logistic regression analyses, we examined demographic and work-related factors associated with overall stress measured by the General Health Questionnaire scale and the Affective Well-Being scale (Anxiety-Contentment Axis and Depression-Enthusiasm Axis).
More than one-third (37%) of the sample was suffering ‘minor psychological distress’, suggesting the stressful nature of veterinary practice. Women with two or more children had less anxiety and depression compared with those who had never been pregnant or were childless. Longer working hours were associated with increased anxiety and depression in female veterinarians overall and in stratified samples of women with and without children.
Among the work characteristics of veterinary practice, long working hours may have a direct effect on a veterinarian's health in terms of anxiety, depression and mental health. The finding also indicates that women with two or more children have less anxiety and depression than women who have never been pregnant or childless women.