Unspoken Truths: Mental Health Among Academic Surgeons

Reagan A. Collins*, Tianna Herman, Rebecca A. Snyder, Krista L. Haines, Anne Stey, Tania K. Arora, Sunil K. Geevarghese, Joseph D. Phillips, Diego Vicente, Cornelia L. Griggs, Imani E. McElroy, Anji E. Wall, Tasha M. Hughes, Srijan Sen, Jaber Valinejad, Andres Alban, J. Shannon Swan, Nathaniel Mercaldo, Mohammad S. Jalali, Jagpreet ChhatwalG. Scott Gazelle, Erika Rangel, Chi Fu Jeffrey Yang, Karen Donelan, Jessica A. Gold, Colin P. West, Carrie Cunningham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To characterize the current state of mental health within the surgical workforce in the United States. Background: Mental illness and suicide is a growing concern in the medical community; however, the current state is largely unknown. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of the academic surgery community assessing mental health, medical error, and suicidal ideation. The odds of suicidal ideation adjusting for sex, prior mental health diagnosis, and validated scales screening for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol use disorder were assessed. Results: Of 622 participating medical students, trainees, and surgeons (estimated response rate=11.4%-14.0%), 26.1% (141/539) reported a previous mental health diagnosis. In all, 15.9% (83/523) of respondents screened positive for current depression, 18.4% (98/533) for anxiety, 11.0% (56/510) for alcohol use disorder, and 17.3% (36/208) for PTSD. Medical error was associated with depression (30.7% vs. 13.3%, P<0.001), anxiety (31.6% vs. 16.2%, P=0.001), PTSD (12.8% vs. 5.6%, P=0.018), and hazardous alcohol consumption (18.7% vs. 9.7%, P=0.022). Overall, 13.2% (73/551) of respondents reported suicidal ideation in the past year and 9.6% (51/533) in the past 2 weeks. On adjusted analysis, a previous history of a mental health disorder (aOR: 1.97, 95% CI: 1.04-3.65, P=0.033) and screening positive for depression (aOR: 4.30, 95% CI: 2.21-8.29, P<0.001) or PTSD (aOR: 3.93, 95% CI: 1.61-9.44, P=0.002) were associated with increased odds of suicidal ideation over the past 12 months. Conclusions: Nearly 1 in 7 respondents reported suicidal ideation in the past year. Mental illness and suicidal ideation are significant problems among the surgical workforce in the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • PTSD
  • alcohol use disorder
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mental health
  • suicidal ideation
  • surgeon


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