Doctors heal and help people live longer, but it seems many of them are dying younger when compared to the general public in Kerala. A study conducted by research cell of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Kerala found that a majority of them die due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
While the life expectancy of an Indian is 67.9 years and that of a Malayali is 74.9 years, the mean 'age of death' for a Malayali doctor is 61.75 years, said the study. "We were surprised by the figures as we expected doctors to live longer as they know what is good for them," said IMA research cell convener Dr Vinayan KP.
For the 10-year study - titled Physician's Mortality Data from 2007 to 2017 - the mortality pattern among doctors enrolled with state IMA's social security scheme was analysed. Of the 10,000 doctors who were part of the contributory supportive scheme that provides a fixed amount to deceased doctor's family, 282 died during the study period.
Of this, 87% were men and 13% women. Almost 27% died due to heart diseases, 25% due to cancer, 2% died due to infection and another 1% committed suicide.
The study didn't look at the reasons for early death, but doctors reasoned that stress was a major contributor. "Doctors are generally working under a lot of stress irrespective of government or private jobs. Increased working hours, the patients they attend to and high expectations contribute to this increased stress. Their working hours need to be fixed, besides government social security scheme. Also, doctors should be prepared for periodic health check-ups," said IMA's former president Dr VG Pradeep Kumar.
"Being a doctor in India is injurious to one's health now. Due to stress, doctors are more prone to heart disease, diabetes and even paralysis," said IMA national president Dr KK Aggarwal. While IMA's national study showed that doctors were dying on an average 10 years earlier than the general population; in Kerala - a state with high life expectancy -they die nearly 13 years earlier.
IMA, Kerala is in the process of doing a prospective study on the health profile of all its members - their lifestyle, food habits. It also will see whether doctors themselves go for a regular medical check-up. "The present study is a retrospective study and has its limitations. We don't know the lifestyle and habits of those who died. Also, some elderly doctors may not be part of the scheme as it is a voluntary one introduced much after IMA was formed here," said Dr Vinayan.
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