Question

Life-expectancy of medical doctors.

Does anyone know of any studies on the life expectancy of medical doctors? I'd think it would be higher than the average for the population at large, owing to the doctors' ability to detect many disorders in early stages of development. However, it seems to me that just like medical laymen, the doctors may be no less (or perhaps even more) likely to ignore personal health problems.

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  • Owais Raza · Tehran University of Medical Sciences
    Once heard, dentist have higher rate of suicide than rest of the other medical professionals. What I feel doctors do ignore their medical conditions despite that they know their health better than a laymen.

    Check the link if it is helpful.

    Regards
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Thanks for your comment Owais. The article you gave seems like a great pilot study of this apparently neglected subject. It would be interesting to see a similar study somehow controlling for the extent to which the doctors under study were inclined to neglect personal health problems. Also, it would be interesting to see similar studies on various medical specialties. I would think that infectious diseases specialists would have the lowest life expectancy. But I can't come up with any reasons why dentists would have higher suicide rates than other medical professionals.

    Also, it seems that we are in agreement that doctors may be more likely than laymen to neglect their health. I would think that this is because doctors are "trained" not to worry personally (i.e. not to have any emotions) about the myriad disorders that they encounter on a daily basis. The same happens when they encounter personal health problems. But since they are used to being paid for treating someone, and know that they won't get paid for treating themselves, their psychological incentive to treat themselves appears to be minimal. What do you think?
  • Drale Desmond · Gulu University (GU)
    Ideally Doctors tend to ignore some things they encounter and on the contrary do the opposite of what they don't want their patience to do like drinking, smoking and other risky behaviors....... i think its just application of do what i tell you but don't do what i do.
    And also doctors are trained to control their emotions in case some thing goes wrong, so they easily ignore something life threatening, but still ethical code of conduct does not all someone to treat himself so have to seek consultation from another fellow professional which does not happen.
    The other doctors who end up treating themselves might end up killing themselves if the condition is a little serious because their emotions can over shadow their professional judgment so people end up with wrong diagnosis, wrong treatment and even over dose
  • Matteo Chiappedi · IRCCS Fondazione Istituto Neurologico Nazionale C. Mondino
    I have no data about this, but I think that one should consider many factors. Among these, stress levels (it's rather different if you work in an ER or in private practice), life styles, social role of the MD (in different countries, the MD can be seen as in important or as a less important person!) and so on.
    The denial of symptoms, as already suggested, is a rather common problem. As they said in Latin: "medice, cura te ipsum!".
  • Based upon experience and not imperial data, I have lost many close colleagues over the years to what I surmise their early mortality to be closely related to irregular and long work hours, i.e., ED shifts. I moved away from working the ED early in my career and worked as an academic.
    Other comments regarding lifestyle, noncompliance with healthy life styles are well spoken.
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Response to Dr. Desmond’s comment:
    Would you mind telling us based on what evidence do you believe that doctors engage in behaviors which they don’t want their patients to engage in? I cannot say anything about doctors in Africa. But I’ve met many doctors in North America and Russia, and I am very confident that not a single one of them smoked. My superior sense of smell easily allows me to detect smokers. Also, could you please elaborate on your following statement: “The other doctors who end up treating themselves might end up killing themselves if the condition is a little serious because their emotions can over shadow their professional judgment so people end up with wrong diagnosis, wrong treatment and even over dose.” Since you said that doctors are trained to control their emotions (and I completely agree with you on that), I don’t see how “their emotions can over shadow their professional judgment.” Thanks.

    Response to Dr. Chiappedi’s comment:
    As some of us have already suggested, doctors are conditioned to remain calm in situations in which a layman would panic openly, pass out (a consequence of internal panic, as I see it), or vomit. So it seems to me that a doctor who works in ER might experience more stress initially (than a doctor working in private practice) but soon enough his/her already blunt negative emotional response will reduce to nothing.

    Response to Dr. Kiley’s comment:
    Do you know of any studies which show that long and irregular working hours correlate with lower life-expectancy? Thanks.
  • Response to Oleg Nekrassovski

    I am not with the Medical Examiners Office any longer but as time permits, I'll do a medsearch and see if there is any data to support my observations.

    Regards
  • Drale Desmond · Gulu University (GU)
    Hello Dr Oleg, thanks for the response: In my setup you get doctors who drink, smoke and some others involve in sexual networks other risky behaviors, of which they do know the dangers associated to what they are doing, in most cases they are the very people who advise their clients on dangers of smoking, drinking, involvement in sexual activities etc. so what i know about being a doctor is being able to control emotions in such a way that you are able to help your clients to the best of your ability even if the situations become alarming! For the case of one treating or diagnosing himself/herself its a really tricky issue since this involves your life, so the ability to make better judgment may be over shadowed by other factors like denials, Ideally ethically a doctor is not allowed to treat, diagnose himself/herself or even a close friend/relative because may be having an emotional attachment which might affect professionalism.
    Thanks
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Thanks for your comments Dr. Desmond. I did not know about that aspect of medical ethics that you described.
  • Mukesh Tyagi · Independent Researcher
    Truly, as Dr. Desmond said, everyone of us is born with human traits. The professional skills and knowledge generally not applied to self which need an insight and self awareness which all ordinary human lack.
  • Ali Thompson · Repatriation General Hospital
    I think the stressful lifestyle of medical doctors should also be taken into consideration, including on-call and long shifts, as well as ongoing study and contribution to medical research.
  • Shyam Parajuly · Sichuan University
    More than 90% of medical doctors ( male) do smoking n drinking...so these associated factors could decrease the expected life expectancy ..
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Thanks for your comment Dr. Parajuly. Is this a statistic exclusive to male doctors in China? Either way, most of us here would appreciate a link to the relevant study. Thanks.
  • Akande Kolawole · University College Hospital Ibadan
    I totally disagreed with the statement that more than 90% of male medical doctors do smoke and drink.We have close to 700 doctors in my hospital and I don't think those that smoke are up to I%.Doctors indeed have a tendency not to indulge in these acts because the know the consequences although you may have few that cannot resist the urge.
    Doctors undergo a lot of mental stress.Having to take decisions involving human life is not a small task.Thanks.
  • G M Vidyasagar · Gulbarga University
    Dear friends,
    Life expectancy does not depends upon profession of a person, but largly depends upon the mental ability, physical fiteness and the food intake of a person. If u r normal in all these, ur chromosome telomer will be healthy and immune system will be normal and u live for a longer period. If u r abnormal in any of the above, ur biochemistry will be disturbed and chromosome telomer will be in trouble, degereates at higher rate and health problems starts. The concept of Live happy and let others to live happy is more near to life expectancy.
  • Mary Flavan · Coalinga State Hospital
    It appears we are blind-folded and in room with an elephant which we are asked to reach out and describe--this question is begging for impartial study/statistical response. It will probably break down into strong cultural differences, especially in the area of cigarette smoking.
  • Shyam Parajuly · Sichuan University
    http://wenku.baidu.com/view/4c906f916bec0975f465e2d2.html( article in Chinese)
    The research conducted in Guangzhou,( China) by local province Health Department in 2008 showed that among 1182 medical doctors and nurses (39.26% doctors; 60.74% nurses had psychological problems with the average age of 35.84%). The research also revealed that the Medical staffs (doctors 66.38% and nurses 33.32%) had to work for 46.4 hours( week days) with the monthly salary of 1001-3000 RMB (150$-450$)............Conclusion of the Study: Lots of factors related to work, position , family, smoking, drinikng , economic crisis, stress leading the decrease in life expectancy of the medical staff...
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Thanks for the article Dr. Parajuly. Do you mind giving a few examples of the psychological problems experienced by these doctors and nurses, as listed in the article? Also, unless I am misunderstanding something, 46.4 hours per week is a joke for American medical residents, for example, who until recently, had to endure 100+ hours per week with little if any pay (if I am not mistaking). Also, do you mind giving the numbers, as stated in the article, regarding the actual life-expectancy of these health care workers, or prevalence of bad habits among them? Thanks.
  • Narayan Bahadur Basnet · Children's Medical Diagnosis Center (CMDC)
    Theoretically, life expectancy of medical doctors should be slightly higher than the ordinary or layman people. The reasons behind are the medical knowledge, advance awareness of disease, lesser possibity of death in natural and man-made calamities due to early awareness of possible causes of death, working abilities in the adverse environments, early and easier access to medical facilities etc... However nobody knows the inherent nature of life span of any individual.
    Dr. Narayan B. Basnet, www.cmdc.com.np
  • Narayan Bahadur Basnet · Children's Medical Diagnosis Center (CMDC)
    To my knowledge, there is an indexed article in Medline regarding life expectancy of medical doctors...

    Nishi M, Miyake H, Kato T, Yamazoe M, Tanaka E, Ishii T, Usui K.
    Life span of Japanese male medical doctors. J Epidemiol. 1999 Nov;9(5):315-9.
    SourceDepartment of Public Health, Sapporo Medical University, Hokkaido, Japan.

    Thank you.
    Dr. Narayan B. Basnet
    www.cmdc.com.np
  • Marcelo Barreiro · Binghamton University
    It is survival of the fittest, fellows!
    The selection process of medical school and residency/fellowship programs, is Darwinian.
    Nurses, on the other hand, are females, and as everyonr knows, women live forever, they just change husbands ...
  • Oleg Nekrassovski · Royal Military College of Canada
    Was that a sexist, social Darwinist joke?
  • Olusola Talabi · University of Agriculture, Abeokuta
    I sincerely believe it will be interesting study to assess the life expectancy of medical doctors. I have this feel that medical doctors are just a little ahead of the general populace not because they are knowlegable but because they are just there when to inervene and this just once a while.
    May have to reach out to medical associations on the lifr expectancy of medical docs
  • Olusola Talabi · University of Agriculture, Abeokuta
    medical profession is actually tasking om all grounds physically, psychologiically,even finacially. most active medical doctors are cllearly overworked in Nigeria. they hardly take enough time to look after themselves. even if preliminary i shall commence an assessment of our doctors in my locality. ta ta
  • Marcelo Barreiro · Binghamton University
    Do a literature search, first. I'm sure you are going to find lots of data on the subject. The insurance companies have lots of actuarial info on us.

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