Report: Many Doctors Live Unhealthy Lifestyles

Ashkelon Barzilai Hospital (Flash90)
A view of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital. (Flash90)

“Doctor, heal thyself” might be the appropriate title of a new study by the Israel Medical Association, which examined the personal health and practices of the people whom Israelis look to in order to keep them healthy. The study, based on a detailed poll of 4,832 doctors, shows that many do not follow the basic medical advice they are themselves likely dispensing regarding diet, exercise and sleep.

While current medical wisdom recommends seven hours of sleep per night, for example, half of Israeli doctors sleep only six hours a night, while a quarter sleep five hours. Some sleep even less, the poll showed. Fifty percent of specialists said they lived stressful lives, and they tended to smoke, exercise less, and eat less healthy diets than general practitioners. Altogether, 8.5 percent of doctors said they smoked.

Less than half of those who responded – 43 percent – said they regularly saw a doctor. Among doctors who practiced in hospitals, that number was only 38 percent. The rest relied on advice from colleagues and “duty doctors” who happened to be around the hospital when they needed medical help themselves. This is also in contradiction to general recommendations by medical authorities, who encourage patients to work with set medical personnel who can get to know their individual cases.

In statistics that relate to the nationalized nature of the Israeli health system, 67 percent of doctors said that their biggest problem was the relatively low salary they earn in relation to the many hours they work. In addition, many feel they are overworked with an excessive caseload, and 60 percent feel this makes it difficult for them to appropriately serve their patients. On the other hand, 87 percent of doctors said that their greatest satisfaction was helping their patients, and “making a difference.”