A new study examined the effects of a doctor’s lifestyle habits on the receptivity of medical patients to lifestyle interventions. It found that physicians asked patients more about physical activity and alcohol use if they possessed a strong sense of clinical mastery. Conversely, doctors with a low sense of clinical mastery were less likely to ask about lifestyle habits. While these findings are encouraging, they also raise some important issues to consider in further research.
Physicians are less likely than patients to disclose their alcohol and physical activity habits. The influence of their lifestyles may be moderated by their vulnerable personalities. Hence, early lifestyle interventions may benefit physicians with vulnerable personalities, by facilitating their ability to cope with negative criticism. Further, physicians may benefit from the ability to discuss their own lifestyle habits with patients. This could result in improved health. Thus, doctors who are vulnerable to criticism should consider the potential benefits of lifestyle counselling as a preventive measure.
Physicians may be more receptive to lifestyle counselling when they have long-term relationships with their patients. However, this relationship may differ in different specialties. General practitioners (GPs) may feel more responsible for general lifestyle counselling than specialist physicians, which is important in the long-term care of their patients. The study also controls for job stress, which may be a factor in GPs’ willingness to receive such counseling.