Job stress puts veterinarians at risk of binge drinking, drug use, study says

Mar 03, 2009
By staff
Hamburg, Germany -- Veterinarians experience a high degree of psychosocial stress and demoralization linked to factors such as long hours with little free time, tough clients and difficulty balancing their private and professional lives, according to a team of researchers in Germany.

The group's findings, based on a questionnaire answered by 1,060 practicing veterinarians in northern Germany in 2006, were published in BioMed Central's latest Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal.

Psychosocial stress among the respondents increased in proportion to work-related problems and lack of personal and family time, with many showing classic signs of demoralization, such as lack of optimism, dissatisfaction and little confidence or pride in themselves, said the researchers, led by Melanie Harling, from the Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in Hamburg.

The study also found complex links between the work stress and drug use, binge drinking and tobacco use. Practicing veterinarians were more frequently affected by work-related stress and were at greater risk of alcohol or drug consumption than those in non-clinical settings, such as industry or the public sector, the authors found.

"Psychosocial stress leads to demoralization, which in turn leads to increased consumption of psychotropic substances. One way of coping with psychosocial stress in the veterinary profession might be the consumption of psychotropic substances," Harling writes. But she and her colleagues plan further research, which they say will clarify the findings and provide strategies for reducing stress among veterinarians.