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Medscape Poll: What Doctors Are Like When the White Coat Comes Off
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
March 22, 2012 -- Which doctors are happiest? Which are healthiest? How many doctors are churchgoers? How many doctors are overweight? And where do they go on vacation?
Welcome to Medscape/WebMD's 2012 Physician Lifestyle Report. It's a peek at what doctors do when the white coats come off. More than 29,000 doctors, representing 25 specialties, replied to the online poll from Jan. 12-27, 2012.
So what are doctors really like? The poll isn't scientific, but it offers interesting insights into what your doctor does outside the office, clinic, and hospital.
The Happiest Doctors
Medscape asked doctors to rate their happiness on a five-point scale, with 5 being as happy as can be.
Rheumatologists -- specialists in arthritis, joints, muscles, and bones -- topped the list with an average self-reported happiness rating of 4.09.
They were followed closely by dermatologists (4.06), urologists (4.04), ophthalmologists (4.03), and emergency medicine doctors (4.01).
The least happy doctors are a three-way tie between neurologists, gastroenterologists, and internal medicine doctors. They rated their happiness at 3.88 -- hardly unhappy, but trailing the pack.
The next least happy docs are oncologists, general surgeons, and plastic surgeons at 3.89 on the happiness scale.
That's still pretty happy. Why? A clue comes from doctors' financial report card: 61% of those in practice say they have adequate or more than adequate savings for their stage of life, while only 7% say they are in unmanageable debt.
And it isn't all about money. More than 4 out of 5 doctors say they are religious, and more than 40% actively practice or attend religious services.
The Healthiest Doctors
When asked to rate their own health on a five-point scale, dermatologists report being the healthiest of all doctors with a 4.23 average rating.
They're followed by plastic surgeons (4.22), diabeticians/endocrinologists (4.20), orthopedists (4.19), and cardiologists (4.17).
The "least healthy doctors" -- critical care doctors -- are still pretty healthy, giving themselves as 3.98 rating.
Just above them are pediatricians (4.01), obstetricians/gynecologists (4.02), pathologists (4.02), and psychiatrists (4.02).
Doctors' Weight, Doctors' Exercise
More than 1 in 3 male doctors and over 1 in 4 female doctors say they are overweight.
And obesity isn't just a problem for patients: 5.33% of male doctors and 6.21% of female doctors admit to being obese.
This may be linked to how much time doctors find for exercise. Even when they are in their 20s, over half of doctors say they exercise less than twice a week.
By age 41 to 50, more doctors are taking their own advice, and the fraction exercising less than twice a week drops to 40%. By age 61 to 70, only 28% of doctors get this little exercise.
Where Doctors Go on Vacation
When it's vacation time, both male and female doctors like to go to faraway places. Foreign travel is among the top 10 vacation plans for 50% of male doctors and 57% of female doctors.
Second on the top 10 list is a beach vacation for 48% of male docs and 54% of female docs.
For men, road trips (23%), visiting a vacation home (20%), cruises (19%), camping/hiking (18%), cultural trips (museums, theatre, etc., 17%), luxury spas/hotels (16%), winter sports trips (15%), and adventure outings (15%) round out the list.
For female physicians it's luxury spas/hotels (23%), road trips (22%), cultural trips (22%), vacation home (21%), camping/hiking (20%), cruises (17.5%), adventure (14%), and winter sports trips (13%).
What Doctors Do for Fun
It's not just golf. Doctors list a wide range of things they do when the sign on the office door says "closed."
Top five pastimes:
- Exercise/physical activity (69% of men, 63% of women)
- Reading (59% of men, 71% of women)
- Travel (55.6% of men, 63% of women)
- Cultural events (41% of men, 53% of women)
- Food and wine (41% of men, 49% of women)
But it's easy on the wine for most doctors. In fact, it's no wine at all -- or any other alcoholic beverage -- for 27% of male doctors and for 35% of female doctors.
Just over half of doctors limit their alcohol intake to less than one drink a day. Only 3% of male doctors and 1% of female doctors say they drink two or more drinks a day.
Time off work doesn't always mean fun. Two-thirds of doctors do volunteer work.
Much of this volunteering means putting the white coat back on and offering free medical services in local areas. Working with religious organizations and tutoring/counseling are also popular volunteer work for doctors.
Not All Doctors Born in the U.S.
Just over two-thirds of doctors were born in the U.S. Nearly 20% came to the U.S. as an adult, while about 8% were born abroad but came to the U.S. as children.
Doctors' Favorite Cars
When the white coat is on the peg and doctors are heading home, what kind of car will they drive?
Here are the top 10 doctor-mobiles (and the percentage of doctors who drive them):
- Toyota (17%)
- Honda (15%)
- Lexus (8%)
- BMW (7%)
- Mercedes (5%)
- Ford (5%)
- Nissan (4%)
- Chevrolet (4%)
- Subaru (3.5%)
- Audi (3%)
Two percent of doctors say they don't own a car.
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