Study Finds Medical Providers May Not Be as Healthy as You Think

A Harvard researcher found that preventable health conditions are increasing among health professionals.

A new study says doctors may not be following their own advice when it comes to doling out health information.

Lead author Anupam Jena, a health policy researcher at Harvard Medical School and a doctor of internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, teamed up with Elias Dayoub of the University of Pennsylvania to examine surveys that included data about occupation and medical conditions. The surveys were collected over the span of 11 years and encompassed 150,000 respondents, 3 percent of whom worked in the medical field.

While health professionals were less likely than the general public to have conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, percentages of those ailments increased at roughly the same rate as the national average—in other words, health professionals are also developing more preventable diseases as time passes. The researchers also found that health workers were more likely to drink regularly, though they exercised more and smoked less than the overall survey sample.

Rates of some conditions were also not drastically different between health and non-health professions; for example, 8.6 percent of health professionals had diabetes by study’s end, as opposed to 9.9 percent of people in other lines of work. Obesity had a wider gap—22.1 percent versus 31.7 percent.

“The take-home message for patients is that healthy lifestyle choices and good health are important but aren’t easy to come by,” Jena told Reuters. “Both take work and even health care professionals find it difficult.”