Thriving under pressure: How occupational stress affects the performance, progression, mental health, and well-being of doctors in training

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Department for Health


The World Health Organization identifies occupational stress as a 21st century global health epidemic. It is linked with 7 of the 10 leading causes of death, and accounts for 37% of work-related ill health and 45% of lost working days. Occupational stress is particularly endemic in healthcare, and is associated with poor long-term career and health outcomes. The General Medical Council State of Medical Education and Practice report (2018) highlights that stress is leading to burnout and poor mental health among doctors, as well as causing significant problems with recruitment and retention. Indeed, 2 in every 100 doctors reported taking a leave of absence due to stress at least once a month over the last year, and 28% of doctors were considering career changes due to system and environmental pressures. Although stress is often viewed negatively due to such statistics, it is noticeable that not all doctors falter under the stress they encounter. Indeed, some even thrive. This programme of PhD research aims to understand variability in response to stress from a psychophysiological perspective, and how such variability influences the performance, progression, mental health, and well-being of doctors in postgraduate training. By improving our understanding of variability in response to stress in medical training, the findings of this PhD have the potential to allow us to prospectively identify doctors in training who could benefit from targeted early support, and facilitate the development of evidence-based interventions that equip doctors with the capabilities required to thrive under pressure. Therefore, the findings of this PhD will help safeguard the productivity and wellbeing of the future healthcare workforce and, ultimately, improve patient safety.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2232629 Studentship ES/P000630/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2027 Russell James Peek