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Study Reveals Concern About Future of the Veterinary Profession
USAgNet - 02/12/2018

Merck Animal Health announced the results of a large, well-controlled study with veterinarians designed to definitively quantify the prevalence of mental illness and stress in the veterinary profession and compare the findings to previous studies and the general U.S. population. Conducted in collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Association and Merck Animal Health, the study found veterinarians age 45 and younger are more likely to experience serious psychological distress and only 27 percent of them would endorse the profession to a friend or family member.

"This survey is unique in that, for the first time, a nationally representative sample of veterinarians in the U.S. were asked about their wellbeing, which is a broader measure of happiness and life satisfaction than mental health alone," said study investigator Linda Lord, Ph.D., D.V.M., academic and allied industry liaison lead, Merck Animal Health. "Based on the survey results, we are particularly concerned about younger veterinarians as they are the future of our profession. We must work together to promote a healthy lifestyle, including work/life balance, access to wellness resources and debt reduction."

According to the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study, about 1 in 20 veterinarians are suffering from serious psychological distress, which is in line with the general population. However, when segmenting the data by age, younger veterinarians are more impacted by the financial and emotional stresses of professional veterinary life, compared to both older male veterinarians and individuals in the general population. Depression (94%), burnout (88%) and anxiety (83%) are the most frequently reported conditions.

Among veterinarians, high student debt was the top concern voiced, with 67 percent rating it as a critically important issue. In 2017, the average veterinary student graduated with more than $138,000 in student debt, according to AVMA, which is nearly twice the average starting salary for a veterinarian, creating a significant strain on the future of the profession. Following student debt, respondents reported the other most serious issues facing young professionals today are stress levels, reported by 53 percent and suicides rates reported by 52 percent. Poor mental health is closely associated with the stresses of professional life -excessive work hours, poor work-life balance and student debt.

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