Stress and coping amongst South African dentists in private practice.

Moller A.T. ; Spangenberg J.J. (1996)


Stress and coping were investigated in a randomly selected sample of 311 South African dentists of whom 268 were in private practice and 43 were non-private practitioners. Some of the most important findings are the following: Indications were that about 40 per cent of the respondents reported extremely high stress levels, irrespective of type of employment. No significant relationships were found between stress levels and biographical variables. Stressors most often experienced by private practitioners were financial issues and time and scheduling pressures. Other important stressors included patients' unfavourable perceptions of dentists, being perceived as an inflictor of pain, working with children, treating nervous patients, concerns about the future and worrying about the oversupply of dentists. The most stressful stressors were financial issues. Although it was found that time and scheduling pressures were the next most prevalent category of stressors, dentists reported, next to financial issues, problems in dealing with patients as the second most stressful group of stressors. Making decisions about future career directions and limited future options were intense stressors for 47.54 per cent of respondents. Dentists identified rising costs and problems with medical aid schemes as the most prevalent and intense stressors, ones they experienced most difficulty in handling. Stressors which posed few coping problems were staff-related problems, difficulties in keeping to appointment schedules, working under constant time pressures, repetitive nature of the work, feeling isolated and the possibility of a viral contraction. The results indicated that, in general, drug use amongst South African dentists was low. However, fairly high numbers of dentists used analgesics on a regular basis. Substantial numbers of dentists reported marital problems. The prevalence of severe interpersonal problems with the dentists' own children was low. In addition to marital problems, substantial percentages of the sample reported severe problems in other personal relationships and experienced a severe lack of social involvement or outside interests. In the present study 27 (10.23 per cent) of the private practitioners and 2 (4.76 per cent) of the non-private practitioners reported severe suicide ideation.

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