My generation

These docs are happiest outside work

A new Medscape report reveals lifestyle and happiness differences and similarities among millennial, Gen X and baby boomer doctors.

Medscape released its annual Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report this month. New this year, the results of the survey of more than 15,000 physicians were broken down by generation in addition to specialty.

But while dividing the data across generations revealed some vast divides in certain fields, the results, per the report, also showed that “some struggles are universal; work-life balance is an issue for all.”

The DO had a DO from each generation represented in the report (millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers) review it and assess its accuracy, both generally and as it pertains to their generation and specialty. Their thoughts are below, organized by topic.

Happiness outside of work

Millennial physicians reported higher rates of happiness outside work than Gen X or boomer physicians.

“Unhappiness outside of work seems to be more prevalent for boomers. Sometimes we spend so much time at work that we don’t develop hobbies or interests, or keep relationships with friends. So when the career is winding down a little bit, [boomers] may not be as happy because we haven’t developed those outside interests as well as we could’ve.” —Rob Danoff, DO, MS, a boomer family physician in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

“It was good to know that 75% of doctors of all generations are happy outside of work and 85% in all generations are happy in their marriages. Sometimes the portrayal of doctors and happiness is very negative given the long hours we work. I constantly hear doctors saying they would not advise their child to be a doctor.” —Ellen Wood, DO, a Gen X OB-GYN in Hollywood, Florida. 

“51% [of oncologists reporting being happy outside work] is probably pretty accurate. Oncology is a very challenging field, and we deal with a lot of stress and a lot of internal stress, with the terminal nature of most of the diseases. It does weigh heavily on oncologists.” —Gregory Harris, DO, a millennial oncologist in Rome, Georgia. 

Taking time for wellness

Millennial physicians reported the highest rates of spending enough time on their own personal health and wellness, followed by boomers.

Dr. Harris, millennial: Tuesdays are my wellness days. I get things done around the house, I spend time with my son, I take care of myself, I go to the gym. Most doctors in my generation refuse to work 100-hour weeks.

Dr. Danoff, boomer: As you go through your career, you may become more efficient or have more partners to work with, so I’m thinking boomers are able to balance more or realize, that as we advise our patients to take care of themselves, we start to take our own advice. Outside of work, I try to escape the computer and the phone and disconnect when I can.

Dr. Wood, Gen X: Boomers and millennials both seem to prioritize their health more than Generation X, according to this report.

CBD and cannabis? No thanks. Drinking, on the other hand …

An overwhelming majority of physicians reported that they had not tried CBD or cannabis, and that they wouldn’t even if it became legal in their state. Nearly half of physicians reported having fewer than one drink per week.

Dr. Harris, millennial: There’s no way half of the physicians consume one drink a week, it has to be more. It’s under-reported.

Regarding CBD, there are an astonishing amount of CBD products that don’t even contain CBD. So there’s a lack of a way to confirm exactly what you’re taking.

Dr. Wood, Gen X: Cannabis use was so even among generations. I thought it might be higher for millennials? All generations seem to drink or not drink similarly which is interesting.

Dr. Danoff, boomer: [Physicians avoiding cannabis] isn’t surprising because they don’t want to be perceived that they could be impaired in any way.

But I’ve seen drinking go both ways. I’m not surprised by it, we’re humans. We’re also in a profession where we’re on call a lot, and, again, you don’t want to be impaired.

Technology in practice

Most physicians spend 1-10 hours a week on the internet for professional use, according to the report. Millennials are most likely to spend more than 10 hours a week on the internet for work.

Dr. Danoff, boomer: I’m between 11 and 20 hours a week at a minimum, just on the computer, handling tasks from the office, talking to patients via email and handling health records. And that doesn’t even include CME.

Dr. Harris, millennial: Almost 100% of our journals are electronic, and I get anywhere between 40-60 journal emails a day. If I can take 5-10 minutes here to read through an abstract to get data, it makes it very simple. Then I can remember these and search for them.

As an oncologist, I have a lot of patients who are trying to maintain their weight asking me about diet and nutrition. I recommend an app called MyFitnessPal to help them figure out how to make that all work with their treatments.

The perils of social media

This part of the report was qualitative, with selected physicians reporting how social media has shaped their interactions with patients. Most had negative views of social media.

Dr. Harris, millennial: The ability to do a Google or Yelp review on a physician is quite anxiety-inducing. It’s so simple and it’s never patients who are happy about their care. Patients were also always trying to be my friend on Facebook, so I’ve deleted that account.

Dr. Danoff, boomer: When you’re happy, are you likely to give a review? No, you’re only likely to give a review when you’re unhappy. But if most reviews [on Google or Yelp] are positive, you’re getting a flavor of what is closer to the truth.

Dr. Wood, Gen X: I totally agree with the social media comments. I hate social media. I wish it did not exist. Patients can trash the doctor because the front desk tried to collect a balance. It leaves doctors at a huge unfair advantage.

What are you driving?

The survey also asked physicians about their cars. More than one-third of physicians reported driving either a Toyota or Honda.

Dr. Harris, millennial: I drive a new Tesla Model S. It’s interesting that Toyota and Honda across the board are the highest. They’re normal cars. Our doctors’ parking lot has a lot of BMWs and Audis, but there are a lot of Toyota RAV4s and Camrys too.

Dr. Wood, Gen X: Toyota’s the top car for every generation? Weird. I have to see what Toyota makes that is so appealing to all generations. I have driven a BMW for the past 20 years.

Dr. Danoff, boomer: In our physicians’ lot, there are a majority of Toyotas and Hondas. A lot of people have a lot of debt, from loans going to medical school. So they may gravitate towards more reliable, more affordable cars instead of extra frills. I have a 2003 Toyota with 324,000 miles on it.

Related reading:

Best and worst states for doctors in 2019: Where docs can thrive, according to Medscape

5 key takeaways from Medscape’s 2018 physician burnout report

One comment

  1. Dr. Michael

    It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive.
    Social media does matter in that it should be avoided by all physicians.
    Happiness has nothing to do with your specialty, it has everything to do with who you are and your core beliefs.
    Finally, these random surveys are nonsense!

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