Healthy Doctors More Likely to Believe Own B.S.

I'm not taking advice from this guy.

We all have that friend who tries to throw advice around about topics on which they’re obviously unqualified to provide an opinion. You know, that guy from high school with the mullet giving fashion advice or the girl with the suspended license being a backseat driver. That priest who condemned homosexuality. And what’s more, none of us want to hear it, especially when the sooth-sayer knows it’s a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do situation.

One would think that because doctors are pretty smart, they’d be able to refrain from being one of “those people.” But as a recent study from the University of Michigan shows, they’re not that smart. What’s more, they know they’re not that smart. They don’t believe for a minute that you’ll actually listen to them.

That is, unless they’re not being hypocritical.

More than 180 physicians at a major teaching hospital (I’m guessing UofM) – some practicing and some still in training – responded to a survey late last year. In it, the medicinal gurus were asked how well they adhere to the sound advice they’ve been taught in school, i.e., how many servings of fruits and vegetables do they eat, how often do they hit-up fast food, how often do they exercise and for how many minutes per week. Surprisingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly given their ridiculous schedules – less than 30 percent practice what their books preach.

As it turns out, the group as a whole isn’t all that healthy, especially the younger trainees. Less than 10 percent of trainees said they exercise at least four days a week for a total of 150 minutes like their books tell them to, all while not eating enough fruits and vegetables during their all-too-frequent trips to McDonalds.  The attending physicians were better, with healthier diet habits and 40 percent hitting their exercise marks, but that’s still a far cry from the 70 percent that tell their patients to eat right and stay active.

While this may not come as a big shock – after all, everyone knows this advice is easier said than done – what is surprising is their lack of faith that they’re doing any good. Only 15 percent of the respondents believed they could actually affect change in their patient’s lives.

However, there was a major distinction between the healthy and unhealthy doctors. It seems the ones who are full of crap know it, while those living the prescribed life are much more likely to believe they can create the next Jared.

Finally – and I believe this is the biggest result of the entire paper – the doctors’ confidence rose dramatically when they reported having received adequate training in counseling.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? When you train someone to be a good councilor, they’re confidence to council goes through the roof. And while there’s no data on this in the paper, I would imagine that a confident advocate for a healthy life style is much more convincing.

I think an article in Newsweek a few years ago said it best:

“Last year, $2.1 trillion was spent in this country on medical care, or 16.5 percent of the gross national product. And 95 cents of every medical-care dollar went to treat disease after it had already occurred. At least 75 percent of these costs were spent on treating chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes that are preventable or even reversible.”

Clearly, we as a people need to invest more in stopping the problem before it starts. And apparently one way to do this is to send our physicians to some classes in order to learn how to be better councilors. Previous studies have proven that physician intervention in smoking habits can be effective at helping to kick the habit. So why not helping to kick the McDonalds’ bucket? What are we waiting for?


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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