I'm Not a Doctor

A second opinion on the challenges and opportunities facing today's physicians.

On a happy note

3 pm, Apr. 11

Doctors are known for working long hours. On the outpatient side, it could be because they want to be accessible. On the inpatient side, it might be because they want to provide continuity. Or, it could be because, as one survey just found, most U.S. physicians are at least as happy at work as they are at home.

Medscape, a division of WebMD that provides medical news and clinical information to doctors, conducted its inaugural Physician Lifestyle Report online survey Jan. 12-17; more than 29,000 physicians in 25 specialties responded. The aim of the survey was to uncover insights to physicians' personal lives and their feelings on their own health, wealth, happiness and political views.

On a 1-to-5 scale, doctors seem to be a happy bunch—some even very happy, as about one-third of the physicians responding (both men and women) rated their happiness outside of medicine at a 5. Four in 10 gave their outside-of-work happiness a 4 rating. The average rating was 3.96. Half of physicians said their happiness is about the same at work as it is at home. Four percent said they are happier at work.

The happiest physicians by far were rheumatologists, who averaged a 4.09 level of outside-of-work happiness. There was a three-way tie for least happy among internists, gastroenterologists and neurologists—though with an average happiness rate of 3.88, you can't really call them "sad."

Money is not necessarily buying this state of semi-happiness, as only 12.8% of actively practicing doctors responding to the survey said their current savings is "more than adequate," while 38.8% described their savings as minimal or nonexistent.

Sixty-five percent of the women and 57% of the male doctors reported their weight was normal, while 26% of the women and 37% of the men said they were overweight. Six percent of the women and 5% of the men said they were obese, and 3% of the women and 1% of the men said they were underweight.

With regard to politics, respondents were asked to describe themselves as conservative or liberal fiscally and socially. (The survey did not include the word "moderate.") Fiscally conservative/socially liberal was the combination with the most respondents, with about 40% of the male physicians and a slightly higher share of female physicians describing themselves that way. About 37% of the men and 25% of the women said they were conservative in both categories; and about 18% of the men and 28% of the women were liberal in both categories. And a lonely roughly 5% of men and women reported being in the somewhat misfit category of fiscally liberal and socially conservative.

What does all this mean? For me, it means I should continue my policy of being skeptical of any press release that says "most doctors" are thinking any one particular way.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.

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