Young doctors' health--II. Health and health behaviour

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jul;45(1):41-4. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00307-3.


There is little published information on the health of young doctors, apart from a number of studies which show increased rates of psychiatric symptoms. Nor is there much known of their health behaviour. Anecdotal accounts suggest that doctors' own health care is poor, especially in terms of their willingness to consult other doctors. This paper presents data from a longitudinal study of a class cohort of young doctors first interviewed when they were students. Data show that they suffer from frequent minor physical ailments, with women reporting more ailments than men. Despite this, they took less sick leave. Overall, the doctors took very little time off work. Using the GHQ-28, with a threshold of 5/6, 30% of doctors fell into the "caseness" category for psychiatric symptoms. This is in keeping with findings elsewhere. From the doctors' own reported health behaviour, both in terms of their response to illness over the past year, as well as their predicted response to hypothetical illness, they have developed maladaptive patterns. These include continuing to go to work when unfit, self-prescribing, and consulting friends and colleagues rather than going for a formal consultation. This is seen as inappropriate, especially in cases of mental illness. A third of the young doctors are not registered with a local general practitioner and the majority have no clear idea of the role of the Occupational Health Service. The results are discussed in terms of the need to change attitudes to health care and to develop guidelines, staffing and services to enable doctors to take better care of themselves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Occupational Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Self Care*
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Sick Role*