Health behaviors, care needs and attitudes towards self-prescription: a cross-sectional survey among Dutch medical students

PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e28038. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028038. Epub 2011 Nov 21.


Purpose: There is a growing awareness of the potent ways in which the wellbeing of physicians impacts the health of their patients. The purpose of this study was to investigate the health behaviors, care needs and attitudes towards self-prescription of Dutch medical students, and any differences between junior preclinical and senior clinically active students.

Methods: All students (n = 2695) of a major Dutch medical school were invited for an online survey. Physical activity, eating habits, alcohol consumption, smoking, Body Mass Index, substance use and amount of sleep per night were inquired, as well as their need for different forms of care and their attitude towards self-prescription.

Results: Data of 902 students were used. Physical activity levels (90% sufficient) and smoking prevalence (94% non-smokers) were satisfying. Healthy eating habits (51% insufficient) and alcohol consumption (46% excessive) were worrying. Body Mass Indexes were acceptable (20% unhealthy). We found no significant differences in health behaviors between preclinical and clinically active students. Care needs were significantly lower among clinically active students. (p<0.05) Student acceptance of self-prescription was significantly higher among clinically active students. (p<0.001)

Conclusions: Unhealthy behaviors are prevalent among medical students, but are no more prevalent during the clinical study phase. The need for specific forms of care appears lower with study progression. This could be worrying as the acceptance of self-care and self-prescription is higher among senior clinical students. Medical faculties need to address students' unhealthy behaviors and meet their care needs for the benefit of both the future physicians as well as their patients.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Habits
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Self Medication*
  • Students, Medical / classification
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*