Open Access Open Badges Research article

An estimate of the cost of burnout on early retirement and reduction in clinical hours of practicing physicians in Canada

Carolyn S Dewa12*, Philip Jacobs34, Nguyen Xuan Thanh3 and Desmond Loong1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S1, Canada

2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 250 College Street, Toronto M5T 1R8, Canada

3 Institute of Health Economics, Edmonton T5J 3N4, Canada

4 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2R3, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:254  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-254

Published: 13 June 2014



Interest in the impact of burnout on physicians has been growing because of the possible burden this may have on health care systems. The objective of this study is to estimate the cost of burnout on early retirement and reduction in clinical hours of practicing physicians in Canada.


Using an economic model, the costs related to early retirement and reduction in clinical hours of physicians were compared for those who were experiencing burnout against a scenario in which they did not experience burnout. The January 2012 Canadian Medical Association Masterfile was used to determine the number of practicing physicians. Transition probabilities were estimated using 2007–2008 Canadian Physician Health Survey and 2007 National Physician Survey data. Adjustments were also applied to outcome estimates based on ratio of actual to planned retirement and reduction in clinical hours.


The total cost of burnout for all physicians practicing in Canada is estimated to be $213.1 million ($185.2 million due to early retirement and $27.9 million due to reduced clinical hours). Family physicians accounted for 58.8% of the burnout costs, followed by surgeons for 24.6% and other specialists for 16.6%.


The cost of burnout associated with early retirement and reduction in clinical hours is substantial and a significant proportion of practicing physicians experience symptoms of burnout. As health systems struggle with human resource shortages and expanding waiting times, this estimate sheds light on the extent to which the burden could be potentially decreased through prevention and promotion activities to address burnout among physicians.

Cost; Burnout; Physician; Productivity