04/11/2013 11:29 pm ET

Patients More Likely To Practice Preventive Behaviors If Doctors Do Them Too, Study Finds

A new study shows that doctors' healthy behaviors may have an impact on their patients' healthy behaviors.

The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, shows an association between doctors' adherence to vaccine recommendations (like getting a flu shot) and patients' adherence to the recommendations.

"While physicians' health habits are generally exemplary, doctors could improve some of their personal screening and vaccination practices, which should improve the health practices of their patients," study researcher Dr. Erica Frank, of the University of British Columbia, said in a statement.

The study included 1,488 doctors and 1,886,791 patients who were part of the Clalit Health Services health care organization in Israel. Researchers found that patients were more likely to get a flu vaccine if their doctors had also gotten one.

Specifically, 49 percent of patients got a flu shot if their doctors had also gotten one, compared with 43 percent of patients of doctors who hadn't gotten a flu shot.

"Objectively establishing this healthy doctor-healthy patient relation should encourage prevention-oriented health care systems to better support and evaluate the effects on patients of improving the physical health of medical students and physicians," the researchers wrote in the study.

Recently, a Gallup-Healthways study showed that doctors generally practice what they preach when it comes to health-promoting behaviors. Doctors scored higher on scales of healthy behaviors (like exercise and healthy eating) and physical health than nurses or other workers.