WORK-RELATED stress, including increased patient expectations, led nearly one-third of GPs to question their careers.
A survey of 450 GPs in the past year showed they fear being sued and have heavy workloads. The Medical Protection Society (MPS) - which indemnifies doctors - found that stress had a big impact on the doctors' personal lives, health and well-being.
It affected their empathy towards patients and also reduced the concentration of more than half of GPs.
Nearly half said they enjoy their jobs, but recognised that changes needed to be made, while stress had caused almost a third to question their careers.
GP and author Dr Mark Rowe will address ways to combat stress and build psychological fitness and emotional vitality at a conference in Dublin organised by the MPS later this month.
He said he expected about 200 family doctors to attend the event.
"GPs face a number of specific challenges on a daily basis, including increasing patient expectations, the risk of litigation and complaints, dealing with chronic illness, pressure to keep knowledge up to date, an unstable regulatory environment and long hours. It is therefore no surprise that they are particularly prone to stress and burnout," he added.
MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said the organisation was increasingly seeing the effects of the provision of modern day healthcare on doctors. Stress and burnout can affect a doctor's judgment, concentration and productivity.
This in turn could lead to mistakes being made and even a relatively minor error could be devastating for all those concerned, undermining the doctor-patient relationship and potentially disrupting a doctor's career, he pointed out.
"It's important that doctors suffering with stress get help early. Being open with colleagues and seeking support from healthcare professionals is vital," he said.
"We are pleased to see that 77pc of GPs who experienced work-related stress sought support from family and friends. Another option is to contact organisations like MPS, who can put them in touch with experts to help them deal with stress."
Plans are under way to organise a march of family doctors on the Dail later this month to highlight their grievances.