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Do Medical Doctors Live Longer?

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Guest MacPhee

I wonder whether medical Doctors enjoy a longer, healthier life, than ordinary people.


It seems they ought to, because consider the advantages the Doctors have:


1. First, they get a long training in medical school. This teaches them about anatomy and physiology. So they learn how the human body functions. Its skeletal structure, muscles, tendons, internal organs, blood vessels - the whole working apparatus.


2. Then they become familiar with the various ways the apparatus can be disrupted. All the ailments. Such as illness, disease, and malignant growths. And what symptoms these ailments produce, and how they can be diagnosed.


3. Finally, the Doctors get familiarised with the surgical techniques, and the pharmaceutical resources, like pills and drugs, which may fight, and perhaps cure, the ailments.


With all these advantages, Medical Doctors should in theory, be fitter, healthier, and longer lived, than the average citizen.


But is this theory borne out in real life - does your GP, or Physician, look supernormally young and fit?

Edited by MacPhee
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According to this 2000 study, yes:


Results: Among both U.S. white and black men, physicians were, on average, older when they died, (73.0 years for white and 68.7 for black) than were lawyers (72.3 and 62.0), all examined professionals (70.9 and 65.3), and all men (70.3 and 63.6). The top ten causes of death for white male physicians were essentially the same as those of the general population, although they were more likely to die from cerebrovascular disease, accidents, and suicide, and less likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia/influenza, or liver disease than were other professional white men.

Male US MDs live on average longer than average, and than other professionals.


I’ve seen references to similar results from studies of UK MDs, but not of female MDs.


Other of MacPhee’s questions – “healthier” and “looking supernormally young and fit” – seem to me difficult to quantify, though I expect they correlate positively with life expectancy.

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An interesting question.


While doctors have the education that should be key to living a healthy lifestyle which studies suggest should translate into longer life expectancy, it is one thing to have the knowledge and quite another to put it into practice and doctors are only human after all.


One of the advantages of living in a small city for an extended time is that one has opportunity to observe these things first hand. I know several of the medical staff personally and they are pretty average across the board as far as life styles go. We have had a few pass on and they were not advanced in years either.


The last time I saw my doctor, she was leaning toward that 'tight white coat syndrome' that comes to many with middle age.


Our medical staff, as in many other parts of the country, is often short-handed. The demands of long hours on these professionals contributes to their stress levels so even though they may have financial benefits of job security and tenure, they often feel squeezed for family time etc. As we have horses in common, one of the professionals was out to my place to purchase some hay a few years back and shared with me, sadly, that his had been the duty of advising five patients to get their affairs in order that week.


That was all that he said, mindful of confidentiality, but it was enough that I could feel how heavy his heart was on their account. :(


If doctors appear to live longer than average, I would suggest it is more likely a correlation of genetics and education than a causal outcome of professional choice. At least that's the view from here.

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  • 1 year later...

Medical doctors may live longer, but how much more careful are they about the health of their families? I have seen cases of doctors who are married to nurses neglecting to neglecting to give their children preventive medical care like immunization for common diseases while ordinary parents follow their doctor's advice to give their children a healthy future.

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Medical doctors are still human. They have psychological issues and physical problems just like everyone else. They may know how to care for their children, for example, but they may not have the best parenting skills. Also many medical doctors I have known, particularly surgeons, have big egos. I'm sure that is a positive in many ways, but it can also mean that they think they know everything and will fail to consider new information on topics that are not part of medicine.

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Interesting that you mention surgeons.


I learned some years ago that surgeons were not tested for Hepatitis, nor do they want to be, because, you know, sometimes cuts happen.


Surgical gloves are not body armor.


So who is at greater risk, in such case? The patient or the doctor? Given that the surgeon is brilliant, would you want him tested (and heaven forbid if the results were positive...) and taken off the roster? Or would you be willing to take your chances under his knife, regardless of the results?


A rhetorical question, but answers could be interesting.

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  • 3 weeks later...

This is an intriguing and thought-provoking question. Our previous medical doctor had so much empathy with humanity and went the extra mile to ensure his patients were taken care of and received the best treatment, yet he was a heavy smoker. I simply could not get my mind around this, still can't.

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  • 3 months later...

The study fails to take into account that doctors make much more money than the average. They should compare doctors' life spans with a group of people having similar incomes. Money means ability to afford treatments and to take time off from work, which could make a big difference in life expectancy.

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Welcome to hypography, markvasani! :) Please feel free to start a topic in the introductions forum to tell us something about yourself.


The study fails to take into account that doctors make much more money than the average. They should compare doctors' life spans with a group of people having similar incomes.

I don’t think the study in the linked 2000 journal article fails to consider income and wealth. Rather, it presumes that “high socioeconomic strata” is one of the causes of doctors’ lower average mortality. From the article’s introduction:

“Finally, physicians’ large about of health-related education and high socioeconomic strata (as judged by education, income, and occupational level) should lead to lower relative mortality”

The study also compared age at death of physicians to that of lawyers.


Anecdotally and intuitively, I assumed that MDs and lawyers make have on average about the same incomes, making the choice to compare their mortality an apt one. According to this 2014 news article (which claims to use US BLS data) however, this assumption is false: the average incomes for US MDs (which vary much by specialty) are between $168,650 and $234,950/year, while for lawyers, it’s $130,490.


Money means ability to afford treatments and to take time off from work, which could make a big difference in life expectancy.

I agree.


This suggests to me that legislation requiring employers to give even low-wage employees paid sick time, such as the recently enacted law in New York City, NY described in this press release are an effective way to reduce preventable illness and death, and that more such laws should be enacted.


I don’t think high income is as important in increasing peoples’ utilization of healthcare than improving access to healthcare and not financially penalizing people for taking time off work for needed healthcare.

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My doctor is around my age and has two kids of his own, he also has no problem being totally truthful to his patients. When I came in for posion ivy last year he ended up getting it about a week proir to my visit. He also said that while he is a doctor by trade, he is also a normal person which some patients tend to forget. We went in for a double physical (myself and spouse) and we were talking about all sorts of things from paying off big bills to expensive exercise equipment and taking a day off when you are actually sick. We need to remember they are (mostly) normal people too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So true arissa. Interestingly, our GP does not belong to a medic aid. He runs a private practice and to use his own words: "No patients, no income". When he is ill or not able to see patients for some reason, he needs to bring in another doctor whom he has to pay a fixed rate per day. Also, he serves both more and less affluent communities. He drives a new Mercedes-Benz and has a lovely house, thus his income is significant, I would presume. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

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