U.S. medical students personal health behaviors, attitudes and perceived skills towards weight management counseling

Prev Med Rep. 2022 May 5:27:101814. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101814. eCollection 2022 Jun.


Physicians' abilities to address obesity in routine care may be affected by their own health behaviors, skills in and attitudes toward weight management counseling (WMC). Gender differences have been noted amongst these factors as well. We examined gender differences in personal health behaviors and predictors of perceived WMC skills and attitudes of medical students enrolled in a WMC trial. Enrollment took place in 2020 and consisted of students from eight U.S. medical schools. Baseline measures included demographics, exercise, and weight management behaviors, WMC attitudes and perceived skills. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and linear mixed models used to assess the effect of personal health behaviors on outcomes of WMC attitudes and perceived skills. Complete data were available for 1145 medical students. More males reported exercising 4 or more days/week (58.6% v. 41.4%), being more likely to monitor their weight (75.6% v. 70.3%) and less likely to intentionally attempt weight loss in the past (50.3% v. 65.3%) compared to females (all p's < 0.05). Exercising 4 or more days per week was positively associated with perceived WMC skills in the adjusted model (β = 0.10, CI 0.06 to 0.14, p < 0.01). Exercise frequency was positively associated with perceived WMC skills, regardless of gender. WMC curriculum may consider focusing on personal health behaviors such as exercise to increase perceived WMC skills.

Keywords: Attitudes; Exercise; Health behaviors; Medical students; Weight management.