Disease Du Jour: Merck/AVMA Veterinarian Well-Being Study

One alarming statistic is that veterinarians are 2.7 times more likely to consider and potentially act on suicidal thoughts than someone in the general population.

Veterinarian well-being and distress were key topics in the second Merck/AVMA Veterinarian Wellness Study. iStock/Juan Monino

In this second Merck Animal Health/AVMA Veterinarian Well-Being Study, conducted in 2019, was a survey-based study done by email. In 2017, when the first study was done, the results were alarming, noted Dr. Earl Gaughan of Merck Animal Health. Veterinarians are 2.7 times more likely to consider and potentially act on suicidal thoughts, he noted.

Read the episode transcript here. 

The second study looked at two items in particular. The first was well-being—how someone views their own life and circumstances as compared to his or her ideal. The second item was psychological distress—how you are actually doing in your life day-to-day. 

Gaughan mentioned the Kessler 6 tool, which is self-administered. “The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6+) is a 6-item self-report measure of psychological distress intended to be used as a quick tool to assess risk for serious mental illness in the general population.”—ScienceofBehavorChange.org.

Topics covered:

  • Can you give us an overview of the Merck/AVMA Veterinarian Wellbeing Studies 1 and 2?
  • How did you become interested in mental health concerns in the profession?
  • Burnout was explored in the 2nd Merck study – what are your thoughts when looking at equine veterinarians compared to other veterinary colleagues and physicians?
  • Food animal veterinarians appeared to have fewer mental health “issues” than veterinarians in other types of practice. Can you let us know a little more about what the research said?
  • Substance abuse was also screened in the last Merck study. Can you offer any comments on this as it relates to veterinarians?
  • As you mentioned earlier, suicide and thinking about suicide are large worries in our profession. We know that 1 out of 6 veterinarians considers suicide. What have you learned regarding awareness and working with suicide in the veterinary profession?
  • The Merck equine team has developed a relationship with the Remount Foundation. Can you tell us what the Remount Foundation is and what they do and how Merck is involved with them?
  • The Merck/AVMA Wellbeing Study authors proposed some action steps to try and help address some of the concerns the studies identified. Can you outline those steps for us?


EquiManagement’s Disease Du Jour podcast is focused on equine research and current best practices. Disease Du Jour is brought to you in 2020 by Merck Animal Health.

If you have suggestions or comments please contact Kimberly S. Brown at kbrown@aimmedia.com.

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