When it comes to healthy habits, doctors preach what they practice, and that's not always the right thing, a survey released Monday said.
The survey in the January issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that doctors' own health habits generally fall short of expert recommendations.The survey of nearly 3,600 internists and subspecialists found that half of the respondents did not have a personal physician, 4 percent smoke cigarettes and 11 percent drink alcohol daily, nearly 20 percent do not exercise, and 12 percent use seat belts "sometimes or never."
The survey also found that more than half had not been immunized against hepatitis B, the flu or pneumonia, and only half of the women physicians examine their breasts regularly.
Those poor health practices carry over into many doctors' practices, the studies show. Few doctors polled said they counsel patients to wear seat belts, less than half recommend exercise, and a quarter do not advise patients, even those with liver problems, to stop drinking alcohol.
But nearly all physicians said they tell patients to stop smoking, regardless of health.
Researchers J. Sanford Schwartz and Charles E. Lewis said physicans don't preach preventive health habits because they don't believe the advice will be heeded.
Doctors who felt they could persuade patients to change were more likely to counsel those patients for three or more minutes, the research found.