The Association Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Burnout in a Regional Sample of Physicians

Peter Yellowlees, Lindsay Coate, Rajiv Misquitta, Aileen E. Wetzel, Michelle Burke Parish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Little research has occurred in physicians on the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their potential correlation with burnout. The authors hypothesized that there would be a relationship between burnout levels and ACE scores, with physicians reporting more burnout being likely to have higher ACE scores. Methods: Three hundred physicians completed the ten-question ACE scale and two burnout scales, the Mini-Z, and two items from the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results: One hundred and thirty eight (46%) of the physicians were positive on one or the other of the two burnout measures, and 49% of the respondents were positive for at least one ACE, while 9% were positive for four or more ACEs. The most common ACEs reported by the group were having a family member being depressed, being mentally ill, or attempting suicide (22%). The burnout measures correlated strongly with each other (r = 0.68, p <.001), and separate logistic regression models revealed that the physicians with an ACE score of 4 or more had more than two and half times the risk of burnout on either burnout scale measured. Conclusions: In this group of physicians, almost half reported experiencing ACEs, and half reported symptoms of burnout. The research hypothesis, which physicians reporting more burnout would be more likely to have higher ACE scores, was supported. It is possible that ACEs are a vulnerability factor in physicians for the development of burnout. This possibility and potential protective factors should be further studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-163
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Burnout
  • Physician wellness
  • Work-life balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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