Gallup: Physicians are healthier than nurses

Physicians are less likely to smoke, suffer from chronic conditions

A new survey from Gallup finds that many physicians do practice what they preach: They maintain healthy diets, exercise, and resist cigarettes—more so than any other category of employed adults, including nurses.

For the Gallup-Healthways Physical Health Index and Healthy Behaviors Index, Gallup surveyed 591,821 U.S. adults—including 1,984 physicians and 7,166 nurses—between Jan. 2, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012.

Overall, the report found that physicians in the United States are in generally better health and have better health habits than nurses and the employed adult population.

Who's healthiest in the hospital? See our infographic on how health care staff compare on key metrics, as part of the Daily Briefing's special feature, Are You Man or Olympian?


Are You Man or Olympian?

Overall, physicians score better on Gallup's health indexes

The Physical Health Index assessed health on 18 criteria including: the number of sick days used in the previous month, disease burden, health issues that interfere with everyday activities, obesity, feeling well-rested, daily energy levels, and the frequency of colds, flu, and headaches. Physicians received an 86 on the Physical Health Index, while nurses received an 80 and other workers received an 81.

The Physical Health Index assessed health on 18 criteria including: the number of sick days used in the previous month, disease burden, health issues that interfere with everyday activities, obesity, feeling well-rested, daily energy levels, and the frequency of colds, flu, and headaches. Physicians received an 86 on the Physical Health Index, while nurses received an 80 and other workers received an 81.

Meanwhile, the Healthy Behaviors Index assessed health on four criteria: smoking, diet, fruit and vegetable consumption, and exercise. Physicians received a 70 on the Healthy Behaviors Index, while nurses received a 66 and other workers received a 63.

However, the Gallup survey also found that physicians did not outperform other professionals with similar education levels on the Healthy Behavior Index. (The difference on the Physical Health Index held true when controlling for education.) The finding suggests that education—not being a physician—correlates to a healthier lifestyle.

Physicians report more healthy habits

According to the Gallup survey, physicians in the survey were more likely to report that they ate healthy all day "yesterday," which includes eating a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables. In addition:

  • 58% of physicians said they exercised for 30 minutes at least three days weekly, compared to 55% of nurses and 54% of other workers; and
  • Less than 5% of physicians said they smoked, compared to 15% of nurses and 20% of other workers.

Meanwhile, the survey found that 13% of physicians are obese, compared to 25% of nurses and 25% of other workers. In addition:

  • 16% of physicians said they have high blood pressure, compared to 22% of nurses and 22% of other workers;
  • 7% of physicians said they are depressed, compared to 14% of nurses and 13% of other workers; and
  • 4% of physicians said they have diabetes, compared to 7% of nurses and 7% of other workers.

However, the survey found that physicians were as likely as nurses and other workers to suffer from high cholesterol or a heart attack (United Press International, 10/5; Bass/McGeeney, Gallup, 10/3).


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