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Divorce among physicians and other healthcare professionals in the United States: analysis of census survey data

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 18 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h706
  1. Dan P Ly, resident1,
  2. Seth A Seabury, associate professor of research2,
  3. Anupam B Jena, assistant professor3
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
  2. 2Department of Emergency Medicine and Leonard D Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  3. 3Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital; and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A B Jena jena{at}
  • Accepted 6 January 2014


Objectives To estimate the prevalence and incidence of divorce among US physicians compared with other healthcare professionals, lawyers, and non-healthcare professionals, and to analyze factors associated with divorce among physicians.

Design Retrospective analysis of nationally representative surveys conducted by the US census, 2008-13.

Setting United States.

Participants 48 881 physicians, 10 086 dentists, 13 883 pharmacists, 159 044 nurses, 18 920 healthcare executives, 59 284 lawyers, and 6 339 310 other non-healthcare professionals.

Main outcome measures Logistic models of divorce adjusted for age, sex, race, annual income, weekly hours worked, number of years since marriage, calendar year, and state of residence. Divorce outcomes included whether an individual had ever been divorced (divorce prevalence) or became divorced in the past year (divorce incidence).

Results After adjustment for covariates, the probability of being ever divorced (or divorce prevalence) among physicians evaluated at the mean value of other covariates was 24.3% (95% confidence interval 23.8% to 24.8%); dentists, 25.2% (24.1% to 26.3%); pharmacists, 22.9% (22.0% to 23.8%); nurses, 33.0% (32.6% to 33.3%); healthcare executives, 30.9% (30.1% to 31.8%); lawyers, 26.9% (26.4% to 27.4%); and other non-healthcare professionals, 35.0% (34.9% to 35.1%). Similarly, physicians were less likely than those in most other occupations to divorce in the past year. In multivariable analysis among physicians, divorce prevalence was greater among women (odds ratio 1.51, 95% confidence interval 1.40 to 1.63). In analyses stratified by physician sex, greater weekly work hours were associated with increased divorce prevalence only for female physicians.

Conclusions Divorce among physicians is less common than among non-healthcare workers and several health professions. Female physicians have a substantially higher prevalence of divorce than male physicians, which may be partly attributable to a differential effect of hours worked on divorce.


  • Contributors: DPL, SAD, and ABJ contributed to the design and conduct of the study, data collection and management, interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. ABJ is guarantor. The study sponsors were not involved in the study design, data interpretation, writing, or decision to submit the article for publication.

  • Funding: This study was supported by the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health.

  • Ethical approval: Not required.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: ABJ had support from the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH early independence award, grant 1DP5OD017897-01) for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; and no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Data sharing: No additional data available.

  • Transparency: The lead author (ABJ) affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.

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