Background: There has never been a nationally representative survey of medical students' personal health-related practices, although they are inherently of interest and may affect students' patient-counseling practices.
Methods: To determine basic health practices and status, a survey was conducted of medical students (n =2316 individuals responding to > or =1 survey) in the Class of 2003 at freshman orientation, entrance to wards, and senior year in a nationally representative sample of 16 medical schools (response rate=80.3%).
Results: Most medical students (84%) reported never having smoked cigarettes, and both genders typically drank two drinks per drinking episode (with bingeing more common among men). Students exercised a median of at least 4 hours per week, and preferred strenuous exercise. Medical students across all years and both genders reported a median of 7 hours of sleep per night. Nearly all (97%) reported their health to be at least good, typically with 1 or fewer days of poor physical or mental health in the past month. Both genders (particularly women) were unlikely to be overweight or obese. Reported rates of any chronic condition were < or =2% except for hypertension among men, and obesity, dyslipidemia, and depression in both genders. Unlike their other relatively positive behaviors compared with their peers, medical students had variable rates of preventive screening.
Conclusions: Medical students in the United States were healthy, and reported many good health behaviors when compared with other young U.S. adults. However, for some, health behaviors and personal health practices either did not meet national goals or placed students at risk.