Do doctors practice the healthy behaviors that they preach?
Generally, yes, according to a new report from Gallup-Healthways, showing that doctors score higher on scales of physical health and healthy behaviors than other workers in the U.S., including nurses.
"As primary healthcare providers, physicians play an important role in helping others understand how to lead healthy lives. Thus, the fact they are in relatively good shape reveals that most of them are well-positioned to teach their patients how to maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk for chronic disease," the researchers wrote in their report.
The report is based on phone interviews with 591,821 adults -- including 1,984 doctors and 7,166 nurses -- across the U.S. conducted between January 2011 and August 2012.
Doctors scored an 86 on the Gallup-Healthways physical health index, while nurses scored an 80 and other employed adults scored an 81. The physical health index includes factors like obesity, colds, the flu, headaches, sick days taken in the past month, diseases and feelings of being well-rested.
And doctors scored a 70 on the healthy behaviors index, while nurses scored a 66 and other workers scored a 63, the report showed. The healthy behaviors index includes factors like smoking, exercise and healthy eating (including eating fruits and vegetables).
Among some of the specific findings:
- Just 4 percent of doctors said that they smoke, while 15 percent of nurses and 20 percent of other employed adults smoke.
- Nearly 60 percent of doctors said that they exercise at least a half-hour three times a week, compared with 55 percent of nurses and 4 percent of other employed adults.
- Sixty-six percent of doctors said that they "ate healthy all day yesterday," compared with 59 percent of nurses and 62 percent of other employed adults.
- Nurses outshone doctors on one aspect: 64 percent said they eat five servings of produce at least four days a week, compared with 60 percent of doctors and 55 percent of other employed adults.
However, researchers said that after taking into account education, doctors were only healthier than nurses and the other employed adults in smoking (since other highly educated adults in the other groups also reported similar rates of healthy habits).
In addition, doctors also had generally lower rates of health conditions than nurses and other employed adults. For example, 13 percent of doctors reported being obese, compared with 25 percent of nurses and other employed adults. And 16 percent said they had high blood pressure, compared with 22 percent of nurses and other employed adults.