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Survey: Docs Healthier, With Better Habits, Compared To Others

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Doctors appear to be taking their own health advice and as a result are in better physical health compared to those in other professions, even nurses, according to a new Gallup survey.

The survey of 1,984 physicians and 7,166 nurses found that overall, the doctors scored higher on the "Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index" which looks at both general health and health-related habits. The questions include 18 items on a "Physical Health Index" which looks at sick days, disease burden as well as "health problems that get in the way of normal activities, obesity, feeling well-rested, daily energy, daily colds, daily flu, and daily headaches. The four "Healthy Behavior" items on the survey include smoking, eating healthy, weekly consumption of fruits and vegetables, and weekly exercise frequency.

(Notably lacking here are questions about mental health. I wonder how the docs would fare if they were asked about burnout, faith in the medical system and their response to new and ever-growing paperwork related to various health reforms?)

As far as physical health and healthier lifestyle habits, the physicians came out on top, the survey found. The doctors were:

...less likely to smoke and are more likely to eat healthy and exercise frequently than are nurses and the employed adult population. Less than 5% of physicians smoke compared with 15% of nurses and 20% of other workers.

Fifty-eight percent of physicians exercise three or more days per week, more than the 54% of adults in the rest of the employed population who do the same. Physicians are also more likely than those in the employed adult population to say they ate healthy all day "yesterday" and to report eating a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables.

The survey also found doctors to be less obese and with fewer chronic health problems compared to others:

Physicians are much less likely than nurses and other adult workers to be obese — 13% vs. 25%. Likely related to their healthier weight, physicians are also significantly less likely than employed adults in general to say they have ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes — two conditions linked to obesity. However, physicians are as likely as others to have high cholesterol and to have had a heart attack...

Cancer is the one health metric that physicians are more likely than other adults to report. Whether this reflects environmental and lifestyle factors unique to doctors, doctors' greater awareness of the warning signs, or a higher vigilance on their part about getting screened, is unclear.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 




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