1 in 4 Doctors Harassed Online, Study Finds | Health Info
By Steven Reinberg, Health Day reporter
THURSDAY, January 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) – One in four doctors has been personally assaulted or sexually harassed on social media, according to a new study.
Women are more likely to be sexually harassed, while both men and women are attacked on the basis of religion, race or medical recommendations, the researchers say.
Doctors have received negative reviews, coordinated harassment, threats at work, public exposure of their personal information, and threats of rape and death. Sadly, this was reported before the 2020 pandemic.
The survey of 464 U.S. doctors was conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak and highlights the intensity of online harassment of doctors. The situation has only worsened since the spring, the authors noted.
“On the contrary, our data is likely an underestimate of the true extent of post-pandemic attacks and harassment since so many doctors began advocating for public health measures during the pandemic and encountered a population of increasingly polarized emboldened by leadership that devalues ââscience and fact, âsaid senior author Dr. Vineet Arora, associate dean of scholarship and discovery at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine.
The study also reported that one in six female doctors said they had been sexually harassed on social media.
Study co-author Tricia Pendergrast, a second-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, called the results worrying.
“We are concerned that this emotionally distressing environment may cause female physicians to quit social media, which has been well documented as a useful career advancement tool,” Pendergrast said in a press release from Northwestern. “Women in medicine are already less likely to be in leadership positions or to be the first or last research authors, thus disproportionately refraining from a platform used for collaboration and networking in because of sexual harassment and personal attacks should be a cause for concern. “
The findings underscore the need for medical institutions to have a plan to respond to online harassment, the researchers said.
“Doctors and other healthcare workers are already facing unprecedented stress and mental health issues related to their work,” Arora said in the statement. “Any stress related to being online will make this worse and put them at risk, especially as doctors are being asked to be heard more on social media to promote vaccination and more.”
The results were published online Jan. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
SOURCE: Northwestern University, press release, January 4, 2021
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