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Why Don't Americans Trust Doctors?

Why Don't Americans Trust Doctors? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

It is an oft recited paradox that Americans like the men or women representing them in Congress, while hating Congress as a whole. In fact, respect for Congress is near all-time lows. In what has to be seen as a bad sign for the medical profession, people’s attitudes towards physicians are beginning to look downright Congressional.

Most Americans like their doctors, with surveys showing that the majority report being completely or very satisfied with the medical treatment they received at their most recent doctor appointment. That satisfaction, in fact, puts the U.S. in 3rd place out of 29 countries surveyed, for satisfaction with medical care trailing only to Switzerland and Denmark. (In our defense, those countries have very satisfying doctors!)

However, in the same survey where people were asked whether “all things considered, doctors in the U.S. can be trusted,” Americans showed much more concern than citizens of most other countries, tying us for 24th overall. We were trailed only by Chile, Bulgaria, Russia, and Poland. In short, Americans love their doctors, but aren’t so fond of the medical profession as a whole.


Results of the survey were described in the New England Journal of Medicine by Robert Blendon and colleagues, who are mostly at a loss to explain the striking disparity between these attitudes. They speculate “that the U.S. political process, with its extensive media coverage, tends to make physician advocacy seem more contentious than it seems in many other countries.” As opposed to many countries on the list, the U.S. healthcare system is characterized by greater autonomy for hospitals and clinicians.  Therefore, any problems with the system are blamed not just on government (as they might be, in say, the UK, where the system is socialized) but also on healthcare providers. Recent media coverage about outrageous healthcare prices can’t be helping the reputation of the profession either.

It is great news that the experiences of patients in the U.S. remain the envy of most of the world. It is wonderful that the majority of Americans like their doctors.  But it is deeply disturbing that the more general reputation of the medical profession is in decline. If physicians truly care about their public image, they need to take the lead in promoting nonpartisan efforts to improve our healthcare system.

Political discourse about the U.S. healthcare system is famously toxic. If physicians don’t rise above the partisan fray, they risk leaving the medical profession in an awful place – vying head-to-head with congress to see who is less popular.

That situation would be very unsatisfying.



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How Much Sleep Do Americans Trade for Work?

How Much Sleep Do Americans Trade for Work? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Among my Type A, career-minded friends, I've heard two opposing types of personal mantras for the amount of sleep a person should get. The first: 8 hours of sleep will help you be more awake and aware, and then you can work harder. The second: Sleep is for losers.


The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) reports that employed Americans spend on average one more hour working than they do sleeping on workdays. Worldwide, America lags behind Europe in OECD's work-life balance index—not to mention Americans are more likely to work late at night and on weekends than Europeans. And although the recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours a night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30 percent of employed Americans—or roughly 40 million workers—sleeps six hours or fewer each night.

A new study in the journal Sleep looks at the activities that are most exchanged for slumber. Using data from the ATUS, researchers Mathias Basner, Andrea Spaeth, and David Dinges sorted sleepers into three groups and compared their waking habits: short sleepers (those who sleep fewer than six hours a night), normal sleepers (six to 11 hours), and long sleepers (more than 11 hours).

Number one on their list of sleep-reducing activities? Work.

“The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming,” said lead author Mathias Basner, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, in a press release.

The study found that work was the activity most exchanged for sleep on weekdays, weekends, and holidays across all sociodemographic categories. In particular, they saw that short sleepers worked 1.6 hours more on weekdays and 1.9 hours more on weekends and holidays compared with normal sleepers. They also found self-employed workers sleep more than private sector or government employees. Unsurprisingly, they found that workers with multiple jobs were 61 percent more likely to be short sleepers.

In second place for the culprit of decreasing sleep was length of commute—short sleepers tend to have longer commutes to school or work. Americans average 25 minutes of travel to work, but longer commutes for 1.7 million Americans come in at over 90 minutes.

Other habits that people give up sleep for will sound familiar: socializing and sleeplessness at night, and grooming in the morning. Their study ranked watching TV at number nine on the list of activities that are commonly exchanged for sleep.

There are some shortcomings to this study. As the accompanying commentary notes, this study uses time-use survey data—meaning it doesn't take into account sleep-affecting factors such as alcohol, caffeine, medication, or light exposure.

However, as lack of sleep is linked to health problems (obesity, hypertension, and cognitive performance, to name a few) and even car accidents (the study cites that least 83,000 car crashes in the U.S. are due to drowsy driving)—the researchers recommend shorter commutes and that later start times for school and work might help Americans get more sleep. And if those are not options, the small things that can give big gains to our sleep time are socializing less and getting ready faster in the morning. In other words, sleep a little more and don't worryyour hair looks great.


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