The influence of controllable lifestyle and sex on the specialty choices of graduating U.S. medical students, 1996-2003

Acad Med. 2005 Sep;80(9):791-6. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200509000-00002.


Purpose: To determine whether the preferences of female medical students are sufficient to explain the recent trend of U.S. medical students choosing specialties with controllable lifestyles.

Method: Specialty choice for graduating U.S. medical students by sex was determined from the responses to the Association of American Medical Colleges' 1996-2003 Medical School Graduation Questionnaires. Using earlier research, specialties were classified as having an uncontrollable or controllable lifestyle. Log-linear models were constructed to assess the strength of association among trends in specialty choice, controllable lifestyle, and sex.

Results: The percentage of women choosing specialties with controllable lifestyles increased from 18% in 1996 to 36% in 2003. For men, the percentage grew from 28% to 45%. The change in preference for controllable lifestyle specialties accounted for a large proportion of the variability in specialty choices for both women and men from 1996-2003 (chi2 for changes common to women and men = 920, 1 df, p < .0001). The difference between women and men in the trend toward controllable lifestyle specialties was small relative to the common changes (chi2 for differences = 12, 1 df, p = .0005).

Conclusion: Controllable lifestyle was strongly associated with the recent trends in specialty choice for both women and men and could not be explained solely by the specialty preferences of women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Data Collection
  • Economics, Medical
  • Education, Medical*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Workforce*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Life Style*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women / psychology
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data