In the first broad-based study of mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary profession, the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study,1 conducted in 2017, revealed that the prevalence of serious psychological distress among working US veterinarians was consistent with the prevalence in the general US population of employed adults. This study also showed that, on average, the wellbeing of these veterinarians was slightly lower than in the general population, although older (≥ 55 years old) veterinarians enjoyed higher levels of wellbeing than their non-veterinarian counterparts. A high percentage (88%) of respondents with serious psychological distress self-reported experiencing burnout. Although these insights were important for understanding the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians, questions remained about factors underlying burnout, as well as job satisfaction, including the potential impact of employment compensation method (ie, production based, salary, or a combination of the 2) on job satisfaction.
A new study was subsequently undertaken not only to compare mental health and wellbeing among US veterinarians against previous findings, but also to more closely examine several related issues, including burnout, substance use disorder, suicide ideation and attempts, job satisfaction, and cyberbullying. This research was again conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with the AVMA. Staff at Brakke Consulting engaged a team of experts who had advised on the earlier study. Merck Animal Health, a supplier of pharmaceuticals and vaccines to the veterinary industry, sponsored the project and participated in its implementation.
The 4 main objectives of this new study—the Merck Animal Health Veterinarian Wellbeing Study II—were to monitor the wellbeing and mental health of US veterinarians, compare key findings against those for physicians and employed adults in the US general population where appropriate, examine several health and wellbeing issues in more depth, and evaluate potential techniques to improve mental health and wellbeing.