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January 27, 2014

Who are the healthiest doctors?

Daily Briefing

Dermatologists and ophthalmologists are the most likely to report high levels of health and happiness, while general practitioners tend to be more dissatisfied and in poor health, according to the third annual Medscape Lifestyle Report.

The latest report offers an inside look at the personal lives of doctors outside the practice of medicine—from the foods they eat and how often they exercise to whether they volunteer and how much they vacation. The findings are based on a comprehensive survey of more than 30,000 doctors.

Overall, the top five healthiest physician specialties are:

  1. Dermatology
  2. Ophthalmology
  3. Urology
  4. Emergency medicine
  5. Anesthesiology

The bottom five healthiest physician specialties are:

  1. Critical care
  2. Psychiatry
  3. Cardiology
  4. Rheumatology
  5. Internal Medicine

Most fortunate physicians: Dermatologists, ophthalmologists

Based on this year's responses, Medscape determined that dermatologists are the "most fortunate" of all physicians. The specialty topped the rankings for self-reported levels of well-being, with 96% rating their health as good or excellent. About 70% of dermatologists rated themselves very to extremely happy at home—second only to ophthalmologists—and 53% reported feeling content at work.

At the same time, the report found that dermatologists are the least heavy physicians. Less than one-quarter (23%) of them reported having a body mass index that qualified them as being overweight or obese, followed by ophthalmologists (29%).

Amy Derick, owner of Derick Dermatology, told Medscape Internal Medicine that high levels of flexibility and predictability are part of the reason dermatologists are so satisfied. Dermatologists have the option to subspecialize or work with a variety of patients, work routine daytime hours or go part time, and can have predictable family time in the evenings that is not typically interrupted by emergencies, she says.

Least fortunate physicians: PCPs

According to the survey, the "least fortunate" physicians are internists and family physicians. Just 36% of family physicians report being happy at work—the same percentage as emergency physicians—while internists and radiologists tied at third and fourth place at 37%. Family physicians also rank lower on the spectrum (61%) on levels of happiness at home, and while 89% of family physicians and 88% of internists claim good health, they are seventh and fifth, respectively, from the bottom of the chart.

Meanwhile, family physicians are the second heaviest physicians included in this year's survey, with 48% reporting they are overweight to obese. At 49%, general surgeons ranked at the heaviest physician specialty overall. Internists placed ninth from the bottom, with 42% reporting overweight to obesity.

Family physicians' general unhappiness likely is partly driven by their lack of time off: Just 13% of family physicians and internists take four weeks of vacation per year, placing them alongside endocrinologists (11%). Money is also a significant stressor; only 57% of PCPs reported having adequate savings, while 78% of orthopedists said the same, the survey found (Peckham, Medscape report, 1/23; Peckham, Medscape Internal Medicine, 1/23).

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