How Happy Are Doctors Outside of Work? Survey Reveals Latest

Marcia Frellick

January 10, 2018

Most physicians reported they were happy outside work in Medscape's annual lifestyle report, but that varied by degree of happiness and specialty.

Half of the more than 15,543 physicians across 29 specialties reported they were very or extremely happy in the Medscape Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2018, while 26% said they were somewhat happy. At the opposite end of the scale, 9% said they were somewhat unhappy, 7% said they were very unhappy, and 3% said they were extremely unhappy.

Who's happiest? Allergists and immunologists topped the list this year, at 61% reporting they were happy. Next were dermatologists, emergency medicine physicians, and ophthalmologists, all at 58%. Cardiologists had the lowest numbers reporting they were happy, at 40%, followed by public health physicians at 41% and oncologists at 42%.

82% Are in a Committed Relationship

Most physicians are in a committed relationship: 77% are married and 5% are living with a partner. The next most common status was single (11%), then divorced (5%). Many marry within healthcare (21% report that spouses are also physicians and 26% of spouses are not physicians but work in the healthcare field).

Nearly half (47%) said they had one to three close friends (4% reported no close friends) and 15% said they had seven or more. By specialty, pathologists (58%) were most likely to report having three or fewer close friends. Allergists (43%) were the least likely to answer that way.

The number who said they have religious or spiritual beliefs (73%) is down substantially from the Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report 2012 (83%). Those who do have belief systems were asked whether those beliefs help them cope with stress, and most (76%) said yes.

Most physicians say they take at least 3 weeks' vacation. Eleven percent reported vacation time of 5 to 6 weeks and 7% said more than 6 weeks. A third of the respondents still said they took less than 2 weeks of vacation, though.

More employed physicians said they took at least 3 weeks (69%) compared with their self-employed peers at 63%.

Physicians reported low consumption of alcohol. Half drank little or no alcohol (27% said no more than one drink per week and 22% said they didn't drink at all). Conversely, 8% reported seven or more drinks per week.

Nearly Half Want to Lose Weight

Physicians were also asked this year about their happiness with their weight. Nearly a third (32%) said they aimed to maintain their current weight; 47% wanted to lose weight. More women than men reported wanting to lose weight (52% vs 45%).

However, many fall short of the amount of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week or a mix of equivalent intensity. Eleven percent of physicians reported they don't exercise at all and 21% said they exercise only up to once a week. Those exercising two to five times a week made up 58% of the responses.

When asked what cars they drive, physicians' strong favorites were Toyotas at 21%, followed by Hondas at 16%. From there, choices took a large drop to the next highest make — BMW at 9%. More primary care doctors than specialists drove Toyotas (23% vs 20%) and Hondas (18% vs 16%). But specialists drove more of the next two most popular choices in the survey. More specialists than primary care doctors drove BMWs (11% vs 6%) and Lexuses (9% vs 7%).

The survey was conducted among Medscape members and nonmembers practicing in the United States. Responses were solicited from July 19 through October 2, 2017. The margin of error was ±0.79% at a 95% confidence interval with a point estimate of 50%.

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