Advertisement
Mayo Clinic Proceedings Home

The Medical Marriage: A National Survey of the Spouses/Partners of US Physicians

      Abstract

      Objective

      To evaluate physician relationships from the perspective of their spouses/partners.

      Methods

      Nearly all data on satisfaction with physician relationships come from the perspective of the physician rather than their spouse/partner. We conducted a national study of the spouses/partners of US physicians from August 17, 2011, through September 12, 2011. Responding spouses/partners provided information on demographic characteristics, their own work life, and the work life of their physician partners. Spouses/partners also rated relationship satisfaction and the effect of the work life of their physician partner on the relationship.

      Results

      Of the 1644 spouses/partners of physicians surveyed, 891 (54.2%) responded. Most spouses/partners (86.8%) reported that they were satisfied with their relationship with their physician partner. Satisfaction strongly related to the amount of time spent awake with their physician partners each day. Despite their overall satisfaction, spouses/partners reported their physician partners frequently came home irritable, too tired to engage in home activities, or preoccupied with work. On multivariate analysis, minutes spent awake with their physician partners each day was the strongest predictor of relationship satisfaction, exhibiting a dose-response effect. No professional characteristic of the physician partners (eg, hours worked per week, specialty area, and practice setting) other than the number of nights on call per week correlated with relationship satisfaction on adjusted analysis.

      Conclusion

      The spouses/partners of US physicians report generally high satisfaction with their relationships. The mean time spent with their physician partners each day appears to be a dominant factor associated with relationship satisfaction and overshadows any specific professional characteristic of the physicians' practice, including specialty area, practice setting, and work hours.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      OR (odds ratio)
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Subscribe:

      Subscribe to Mayo Clinic Proceedings
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect

      References

        • Vaillant G.E.
        • Sobowale N.C.
        • McArthur C.
        Some psychologic vulnerabilities of physicians.
        N Engl J Med. 1972; 287: 372-375
      1. Derdeyn AP. The physician's work and marriage. Int J Psychiatry Med. 1978-1979;9(3-4):297-306.

        • Gabbard G.O.
        • Menninger R.W.
        • Coyne L.
        Sources of conflict in the medical marriage.
        Am J Psychiatry. 1987; 144: 567-572
        • Gabbard G.O.
        • Menninger R.W.
        The psychology of postponement in the medical marriage.
        JAMA. 1989; 261: 2378-2381
        • Glick I.D.
        • Borus J.F.
        Marital and family therapy for troubled physicians and their families: a bridge over troubled waters.
        JAMA. 1984; 251: 1855-1858
        • Doherty W.J.
        • Burge S.K.
        Divorce among physicians: comparisons with other occupational groups.
        JAMA. 1989; 261: 2374-2377
        • Rollman B.L.
        • Mead L.A.
        • Wang N.Y.
        • Klag M.J.
        Medical specialty and the incidence of divorce.
        N Engl J Med. 1997; 336: 800-803
        • Eisenberg L.
        Marriage: if it lasts, does that mean it's good?.
        JAMA. 1989; 261: 2401
        • Garvey M.
        • Tuason V.B.
        Physician marriages.
        J Clin Psychiatry. 1979; 40: 129-131
        • Dyrbye L.N.
        • Shanafelt T.D.
        • Balch C.M.
        • Satele D.
        • Sloan J.
        • Freischlag J.
        Relationship between work-home conflicts and burnout among American surgeons: a comparison by sex.
        Arch Surg. 2011; 146: 211-217
        • Dyrbye L.N.
        • Shanafelt T.D.
        • Balch C.M.
        • Satele D.
        • Freischlag J.
        Physicians married or partnered to physicians: a comparative study in the American College of Surgeons.
        J Am Coll Surg. 2010; 211: 663-671
        • Dyrbye L.N.
        • West C.P.
        • Satele D.
        • Sloan J.A.
        • Shanafelt T.D.
        Work/home conflict and burnout among academic internal medicine physicians.
        Arch Intern Med. 2011; 171: 1207-1209
        • Shanafelt T.D.
        • Boone S.
        • Tan L.
        • et al.
        Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population.
        Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172: 1377-1385
        • Gabbard G.O.
        The role of compulsiveness in the normal physician.
        JAMA. 1985; 254: 2926-2929
        • Lewis J.M.
        • Barnhart F.D.
        • Nace E.P.
        • Carson D.I.
        • Howard B.L.
        Marital satisfaction in the lives of physicians.
        Bull Menninger Clin. 1993; 57: 458-465
        • Warde C.
        • Allen W.
        • Gelberg L.
        Physician role conflict and resulting career changes: gender and generational differences.
        J Gen Intern Med. 1996; 11: 729-735
        • Warde C.M.
        • Moonesinghe K.
        • Allen W.
        • Gelberg L.
        Marital and parental satisfaction of married physicians with children.
        J Gen Intern Med. 1999; 14: 157-165
        • Sotile W.M.
        • Sotile M.O.
        Physicians' wives evaluate their marriages, their husbands, and life in medicine: results of the AMA-Alliance Medical Marriage Survey.
        Bull Menninger Clin. 2004; 68: 39-59
        • Spendlove D.C.
        • Reed B.D.
        • Whitman N.
        • Slattery M.L.
        • French T.K.
        • Horwood K.
        Marital adjustment among housestaff and new attorneys.
        Acad Med. 1990; 65: 599-603
        • Moore E.E.
        Swimming with the sharks: without the family being eaten alive.
        Surgery. 1990; 108: 125-138
        • Shanafelt T.
        • Boone S.
        • Dyrbye L.
        • et al.
        Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population.
        Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172: 1377-1385
        • Association of American Medical Colleges
        FACTS: Total Graduates by U.S. Medical School and Sex, 2007-2011.
        Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC2012
        • Dew J.
        • Wilcox W.B.
        If Momma ain't happy: explaining declines in marital satisfaction among new mothers.
        J Marriage Fam. 2011; 73: 1-12
      2. Johnson MD, Anderson JR. Longitudinal association of marital confidence, time spent together, and marital satisfaction. Fam Process. In press.

        • Shanafelt T.
        • Sloan J.
        • Satele D.
        • Balch C.
        Why do surgeons consider leaving practice?.
        J Am Coll Surg. 2011; 212: 421-422
        • Mechaber H.F.
        • Levine R.B.
        • Manwell L.B.
        • et al.
        Part-time physicians…prevalent, connected, and satisfied.
        J Gen Intern Med. 2008; 23: 300-303
        • Dorsey E.R.
        • Jarjoura D.
        • Rutecki G.W.
        Influence of controllable lifestyle on recent trends in specialty choice by US medical students.
        JAMA. 2003; 290: 1173-1178
        • Dyrbye L.N.
        • Shanafelt T.D.
        Physician burnout: a potential threat to successful health care reform.
        JAMA. 2011; 305: 2009-2010
        • Waite L.
        • Gallagher M.
        The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
        Doubleday, New York, NY2000
        • Glenn N.D.
        With this Ring…A National Survey on Marriage in America.
        National Fatherhood Initiative, Germantown, MD2005
        • Asch D.
        • Jedrziewski M.
        • Christakis N.
        Response rates to mail surveys published in medical journals.
        J Clin Epidemiol. 1997; 50: 1129-1136