Do what I say, not what I do: Lifestyles and counseling practices of physician faculty

Objective To describe the dietary, exercise, smoking, and alcohol use habits among physician faculty to determine if physician lifestyle behaviour is related to attitudes about and practices of patient lifestyle counseling.

Design An electronic cross-sectional survey distributed by e-mail.

Setting The Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Participants Physician faculty.

Main outcome measures Physicians’ dietary, exercise, smoking, and alcohol use habits and the correlation between physician lifestyle behaviour and counseling practices.

Results A total of 176 responses were received, for a response rate of 24.0%. Of the physician faculty respondents, 63.3% believed they were role models for a healthy lifestyle. Smoking was rare among the respondents, while 86.2% reported alcohol consumption. Only 10.8% of respondents reported consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Only 47.2% (83 of 176) reported doing vigorous physical activity on 3 or more days in the past week, while 33.0% (58 of 176) reported doing moderate physical activity on 3 or more days in the past week. Statistically significant links exist between poor lifestyle behaviour and low levels of counseling in medical practice. Physicians who viewed themselves as role models for healthy lifestyles reported that they consumed more fruit and vegetables, exercised more often, and felt comfortable counseling patients about healthy lifestyle habits.

Conclusion This study demonstrates that lifestyle habits among physician faculty do not routinely meet recommended guidelines, and that physicians might counsel patients less frequently on lifestyle guidelines that they themselves are not meeting.