The Physician: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise?

Carol Peckham

|Disclosures|January 23, 2014

Other Comparisons of Physician Lifestyle Factors

Do Physicians Volunteer?

More men (28%) than women (25%) say they never volunteer, which is a decrease from Medscape's 2012 survey, where about a third of both male and female physicians said they didn't volunteer. Intensivists, at 37%, are the least likely to volunteer and dermatologists, at 80%, are the most likely (Figure 5). In last year's lifestyle report, which focused on burnout, intensivists were among the few to cite "compassion fatigue" as one of their top 3 reasons for burnout, which might be a discouraging factor for volunteering outside of work. Also of interest, intensivists are the least happy physicians at home while dermatologists are second from the top of that list (and also the happiest specialists at work). Although it's not proof of any correlation, in a 2000 survey published in the Archives of Family Medicine, physicians who viewed benevolence as a guiding principle in their lives reported a higher level of professional satisfaction.[37]

Figure 5.

Physicians Who Never Volunteer

Are Physicians Religious?

In a national Pew Research survey of all Americans, only 16% were unaffiliated with any particular faith, with half of this group saying that religion is still important or somewhat important to them. Also in the Pew survey, nearly 20% of men had no formal religious affiliation, compared with about 13% of women.[38] In the Medscape survey, men and women almost equally claimed to be spiritual or religious (75% and 77%, respectively). Of this group, men are more likely to attend services (60%) than women (44%). Of all specialists, about two thirds (66%) of pediatricians were the most active practitioners of their faith, followed by family physicians (65%). Those least likely to attend services were emergency medicine physicians (53%) and radiologists and plastic surgeons (both 52%) (Figure 6).

Figure 6.

Religious/Spiritual Practicing Physicians

Where Do Physicians Lean on the Political Spectrum?

Male and female physicians show different political leanings, and their responses have changed since the 2012 Medscape Survey. This year, 62% of women and 56% of men claimed to be socially liberal compared with 67% of women and 59% of men in 2012. In the current survey, 58% of women and 71% of men say they are fiscal conservatives compared with 69% of women and 77% of men 2 years ago -- a considerable decrease, particularly among women. Among specialists, 81% of orthopedists say they are fiscally conservative and only half claim to be social liberals, making them the most conservative specialty (Figure 7). Of interest, family physicians, at 52%, are the second least socially liberal specialist group.

Figure 7.

Physicians' Political Leanings

5 of 5
Latest in Internal Medicine
Table. Physicians' Routine Dietary Approaches 
Dietary Approach Underweight
or Normal Weight
or Obese
Typical American diet (meat most days; carbs most days from white rice, potatoes, or white flour products; high fat) 25% 40%
American Heart Association-type diet (avoid saturated fats; 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily; avoid red meat; at least 2 servings of fish a week; choose high-fiber, whole-grain carbs) 24% 16%
Mediterranean diet (whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruit, olive oil, red wine, protein from fish) 21% 14%
Paleo diet (avoid all processed foods, potatoes, sugar; choose fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat from grass-fed animals, eggs, natural oils) 7% 5%
Weight-loss, calorie-restriction diets 6% 11%
Lacto-ovo vegetarian (no meat but dairy and eggs) 6% 3%
Meals on-the-go (take-out, fast food, vending machines) 3% 5%
Weight-loss diets not dependent on calorie restriction (eg, South Beach, Atkins) 3% 5%
Vegan (vegetarian, no dairy, no eggs) 2% 1%
Gluten-free diet 2% 1%
Ornish-style diet (less than 10% of calories from any fat; avoid animal products; large amounts of whole grains and vegetables) 2% 1%


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  2. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. NCHS Data Brief. Prevalence of obesity among adults: United States, 2011-2012. 2013;131. Accessed November 23, 2013

  3. Busko M. Current BMI cutoffs may miss metabolic disease risk. Medscape Medical News. November 14, 2013. Accessed November 23, 2013.

  4. Gallup Well-Being. Americans' desire to shed pounds outweighs effort. November 29, 2013. Accessed November 23, 2013.

  5. Gallup Well-Being. Americans exercising slightly more in 2012. September 19, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2013.

  6. Gallup Well-Being. U.S. physicians set good health example. October 3, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2013.

  7. United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Accessed January 8, 2014.

  8. Gallup Well-Being. Americans' eating habits worsening in 2013. November 27, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.

  9. Wood S. New ACC/AHA/NHLBI guidance on lifestyle for CVD prevention. Medscape Medical News. November 12, 2013. Accessed November 23, 2013.

  10. Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology American/Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Nov 7. [Epub ahead of print]

  11. Rees K, Hartley L, Flowers N, et al. 'Mediterranean' dietary pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 12;8:CD009825. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009825.pub2.

  12. The Ornish Spectrum. Accessed December 30, 2013.

  13. The Paleo Diet. Accessed December 30, 2013.

  14. Spreadbury I. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:175-189. Accessed December 30, 2013.

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    Accessed December 4, 2013.

  16. Thomas D. Cheap eats: How America spends money on food. The Atlantic. March 8, 2013. Accessed December 4, 2013.

  17. The Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home Foods. Opportunities for Preventing Weight Gain and Obesity. Final Report. May 2006. Accessed January 8, 2014.

  18. Lachat C, Nago E, Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Van Camp J, Kolsteren P. Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2012;13:329-346. Abstract

  19. Muñoz-Pareja M, Guallar-Castillón P, Mesas AE, López-García E, Rodríguez-Artalejo F. Obesity-related eating behaviors are associated with higher food energy density and higher consumption of sugary and alcoholic beverages: a cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2013;8:e77137. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077137.

  20. Laska MN, Story M. Young adults and eating away from home: associations with dietary intake patterns and weight status differ by choice of restaurant. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:1696-1703. Abstract

  21. Poti JM, Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: is it the fast food or the remainder of diet? Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Oct 23. [Epub ahead of print]

  22. Bezerra IN, Curioni C, Sichieri R. Association between eating out of home and body weight. Nutr Rev. 2012;70:65-79. Abstract

  23. Gallup Well-Being. Fast food still major part of U.S. diet Accessed January 8, 2014.

  24. Pew Research Center: A Social Trends Report. Eating more; enjoying less. 2006. Accessed November 23, 2013.

  25. Hearst MO, Harnack LJ, Bauer KW, Earnest AA, French SA, Michael Oakes J. Nutritional quality at eight U.S. fast-food chains: 14-year trends. Am J Prev Med. 2013;44:589-594. Abstract

  26. Offit P. Which complementary and alternative therapies merit study? Medscape. May 17, 2012. Accessed January 8, 2014.

  27. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Accessed December 4, 2013.

  28. White A, Foell J. Acupuncture is superior to sham for painful conditions. Evid Based Med. 2013;18:e56. Accessed January 5, 2014.

  29. Charles P. Vega. Choosing Wisely 2013: the need to know for primary care. Medscape. December 13, 2013. Accessed January 5, 2014.

  30. Wu D, Huang Y, Gu Y, Fan W. Efficacies of different preparations of glucosamine for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Int J Clin Pract. 2013;67:585-594. Abstract

  31. Bailey RL, Gahche JJ, Lentino CV, et al. Dietary supplement use in the United States, 2003-2006. J Nutr. 2011;141:261-266. Accessed December 30, 2013.

  32. Kim HJ, Giovannucci E, Rosner B, Willett WC, Cho E. Longitudinal and secular trends in dietary supplement use: Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 1986-2006. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Oct 9. pii: S2212-2672(13)01253-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.07.039. [Epub ahead of print]

  33. Lamas GA, Boineau R, Goertz C, et al. Oral high-dose multivitamins and minerals after myocardial infarction: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159:797-805.

  34. Guallar E, Stranges S, Mulrow C, Appel LJ, Miller ER. Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159: 850-851. Accessed January 7, 2014.

  35. Fortmann SP, Burda BU, Senger CA, Lin JS, Whitlock EP. Vitamin and mineral supplements in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: an Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Nov 12. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00729 Accessed January 5, 2014.

  36. Fish oil and multivitamins most popular supplements in survey. February 5, 2013. Accessed November 23, 2013.

  37. Eliason BC, Guse C, Gottlieb MS. Personal values of family physicians, practice satisfaction, and service to the underserved. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:228-232. Abstract

  38. Pew Research. US Religious Landscape Survey. February 2008. Accessed November 23, 2013.

Authors and Disclosures


Carol Peckham

Director, Editorial Services, Art Science Code LLC, New York, New York

Disclosure: Carol Peckham has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Figure 5.

Physicians Who Never Volunteer

Figure 6.

Religious/Spiritual Practicing Physicians

Figure 7.

Physicians' Political Leanings

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