Irish Medical Organisation

“Do as I say, not as I do!” - Study reveals consultant’s health practices - Irish Medical Journal - May 2013

A new study published in the Irish Medical Journal reveals that female consultants are better at weight management than males but smoking and alcohol rates were more prevalent among females. This descriptive population study among a sample of consultants in Munster looked at alcohol consumption, exercise rates and obesity rates to determine consultant’s personal health practices and how they rate in comparison to the general population.

Personal health practices are important determinants of health. Smoking habits among health professionals have been well documented but there have been little indigenous studies on alcohol consumption, exercise rates and obesity rates.

The results of the study revealed that 94% of consultants consume alcohol, which is higher than the national rate of 81%, with nearly two thirds doing so on at least 2 days a week. The vast majority consumed between 1 and 5 units per occasion (96.8%).

Findings from the study showed that smoking and alcohol rates were more prevalent among female consultants. The current smoking rate was 7.5% overall with women and surgeons recording the highest rates at 10.9% and 10.4% respectively. The consultant smoking rate in this study was favourable when compared to the general population (7.5% vs. 29%).

The study shows that a lower proportion of consultants are obese (9.1% vs. 24%) in comparison to the general population. The authors, Ó Cathail et al noted that “with obesity being a key target of public health groups, it is important that doctors lead by example. In this regard they do compare well with the general population, significantly fewer female consultants are overweight or obese (23.9% vs. 57%)”. By contrast a higher proportion of male consultants were overweight than males in the general population (48.7% vs. 45%). “These results suggest that female consultants are more successful at maintaining a healthy BMI than their male colleagues.” say the authors. Almost 70% of consultants reported taking a walk on 3 or more days during the week.

The survey returns a mixed report on the state of the health practices of consultants in Ireland. It has highlighted that some areas need more attention. The authors conclude that “Smoking rates are still too high and comparisons with international peers show just how much room for improvement there is. Exercise levels are too low; this may be a reflection of busy work schedules so perhaps work life balance needs to be addressed.” “If we are to truly advocate healthy living to our patients then we must endeavour to lead by example and, first, improve our own practices, otherwise we run the risk of undermining our own advice. At least in some instances it appears to be a case of “Do as I say, not as I do!” state the authors.

All references and author names are contained in the full article in this month’s IMJ, p. 134
Title: A Profile of Hospital Consultants: The Health Practices of a Cohort of Medical Professionals

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