Bias, Burnout, Race: What Physicians Told Us About the Issues

Carol Peckham


January 10, 2017

In This Article

Other Lifestyle Factors and Race/Ethnicity

Race/Ethnicity and Spiritual or Religious Belief?

Nearly all Filipino (91%) and black/African American (88%) respondents reported that they have spiritual or religious beliefs, followed by Hispanic/Latino respondents (79%). The lowest percentages occurred among self-identified Chinese (48%), Japanese (51%), and Vietnamese (61%) respondents.

Race/Ethnicity and Political Leaning.

Respondents were asked whether they are socially conservative or liberal. The most liberal physicians identified themselves as Japanese (69%) or black/African American (68%). Filipino (46%) or other Asian (49%) physicians were the least likely to identify as liberal though still only about half identified as conservative. About 60% of all of the other groups reported being socially liberal.

Race/Ethnicity and Healthy Exercise (at Least Twice a Week)

Race/ethnicity does not appear to have any strong relationship to frequency of exercise among physicians. The respondents most likely to exercise at least twice a week identified themselves as white/Caucasian (69%) or Japanese (67%). The lowest percentages were found among respondents who described themselves as other Asian (58%) and Korean or black/African American (both at 59%).

Race/Ethnicity and Weight

Race does appear to have a relationship to weight. In a 2016 study of all American adults by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 47.8% of blacks, 42.5% of Latinos, and 32.6% of whites were obese.[25] The highest percentages of physician respondents in the Medscape survey who said that they are overweight or obese followed suit: black/African American (52%), Hispanic/Latino (49%), and white/Caucasian (44%). When looking at rates of obesity alone, however, these physicians do better than their patients. Only 16% of black/African American, 12% of Hispanic/Latino, and 9% of white/Caucasian physicians are obese (Figure 5). In the Medscape survey, self-described Asian respondents were the least likely to report that they are overweight or obese, with the lowest percentages seen in physicians who reported as Vietnamese (17% and 4%, respectively) and Chinese (26% and 3%). (The Robert Wood Johnson study did not break out rates among Asian Americans.)

Figure 5. Percentage overweight and obese by race/ethnicity.

Race/Ethnicity and Alcohol Use (At Least One Drink per Day)

In general, reported alcohol use among physicians is low. Respondents who most often indicated that they drink one or more alcoholic beverages per day identified themselves as white/Caucasian (22%). Japanese and Korean physicians followed at 17% and 15%, respectively. Physicians who described themselves as other Asian or Filipino were least likely to report alcohol use, at 8%.

Race/Ethnicity and Sufficient Income and Assets

The highest percentages of respondents who believe that their finances are sufficient to support life goals described themselves as Japanese (72%). They were followed by white/Caucasian (59%), Filipino (57%), and Chinese (54%) physicians. Only 43% of self-identified Korean and 46% of black/African American respondents reported sufficient income and assets, although a relatively high percentage of the latter group (42%) believed that the situation would improve.


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