How physicians identify with predetermined personalities and links to perceived performance and wellness outcomes: a cross-sectional study

BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Nov 29:14:616. doi: 10.1186/s12913-014-0616-z.


Background: Certain personalities are ascribed to physicians. This research aims to measure the extent to which physicians identify with three predetermined personalities (workaholic, Type A and control freak) and to explore links to perceptions of professional performance, and wellness outcomes.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional study using a mail-out questionnaire sent to all practicing physicians (2957 eligible, 1178 responses, 40% response rate) in a geographical health region within a western Canadian province. Survey items were used to assess the extent to which participants felt they are somewhat of a workaholic, Type A and/or control freak, and if they believed that having these personalities makes one a better doctor. Participants' wellness outcomes were also measured. Zero-order correlations were used to determine the relationships between physicians identifying with a personality and feeling it makes one a better doctor. T-tests were used to compare measures of physician wellness for those who identified with the personality versus those who did not.

Results: 53% of participants identified with the workaholic personality, 62% with the Type A, and 36% with the control freak. Identifying with any one of the personalities was correlated with feeling it makes one a better physician. There were statistically significant differences in several wellness outcomes comparing participants who identified with the personalities versus those who did not. These included higher levels of emotional exhaustion (workaholic, Type A and control freak), higher levels of anxiety (Type A and control freak) and higher levels of depression, poorer mental health and lower levels of job satisfaction (control freak). Participants who identified with the workaholic personality versus those who did not reported higher levels of job satisfaction, rewarding patient experiences and career commitment.

Conclusions: Most participants identified with at least one of the three personalities. The beliefs of some participants that these personalities enhance professional performance may reinforce the harmful behaviors associated with poor wellness outcomes. Future research should further explore links between physician personality, perceptions of performance and actual performance, and more definitively address whether the perceived benefits offered by identifying with the workaholic personality are enough to counter the potential costs to physician wellness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alberta
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires