Healthy lifestyle adherence is associated with lower chronic disease morbidity/mortality. The role of doctors, as counselors and role models, is essential. Among physicians participating in a prospective cohort, we investigated the behavioral counseling on diet and lifestyle provided to their patients in association with their own personal behaviors.
We assessed 890 doctors aged ≤65 years participating in the ‘Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra’ (SUN) cohort, who replied to an online questionnaire regarding their practices on behavioral counseling and drug prescription to their patients. Data were combined with previous baseline information on their personal healthy habits.
Among doctors, 31% reported <10 min per visit; 73% counseled 60–100% of their patients on smoking cessation, 58% on physical activity, 54% on weight control, 51% on healthy nutrition, 44% on alcohol avoidance/reduction and 28% recommended alcohol moderate consumption. The percentage of doctors that counseled 100% of their patients about lifestyle was 43% for smoking cessation, 15% for exercise and 13% for weight control and nutrition. Better doctor’s adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern was associated with more frequent and longer nutrition counseling. Higher practice of physical activity was associated with longer time on counseling about exercise to their patients. Among doctors both current and former smoking were inversely associated with the frequency and duration of their smoking cessation/avoidance counseling practices.
Personal behavioral changes among doctors and better training of medical doctors on a personal healthy diet and lifestyle are likely to contribute to improve the behavioral counseling given to patients.