The generation gap: Survey looks at doctors' drinking habits, relationships and other lifestyle choices

Male doctor in white lab coat
A new survey looked at the differences and similarities among baby boomer, Gen X and millennial doctors. (Getty/Saklakova)

The times they are a’ changing.

Or perhaps, maybe not.

When it comes to some things, such as marijuana use and their choice of cars, there’s not much difference between physicians from the baby boomer, millennial and Gen X generations.

But on other lifestyle choices, such as drinking habits or spending enough time on their personal health and wellness? There's a big generation gap, according to a new Medscape survey.

Medscape’s 2020 physician lifestyle and happiness report focused on the generational divide with its survey of more than 15,000 physicians from across more than 29 specialties. It broke down responses from each generation: millennials (ages 25-39), Generation X (ages 40-54) and baby boomers (ages 55-73). Here are some of the results:

  • Specialties. Millennials are more likely to choose a specialty that offers more work-life balance, along with higher pay, a choice likely to address their high student debt, the survey found. The most popular specialties for millennials are dermatology and neurology, for Gen Xers it’s critical care and nephrology, and for boomers, it’s gastroenterology and pulmonary medicine.
  • Time. Baby boomers report spending enough time on their personal health and wellness compared to younger generations. About one-third of millennial and Gen X physicians spend time each week on personal health and wellness, as compared with 46% of boomer physicians. More than two-thirds of all physicians take a minimum of three weeks of vacation each year. 

    Millennials spend the most time on the internet for personal use. 
  • Exercise. Perhaps it’s a factor of age, but baby boomer physicians take more time for exercise. About 37% of boomer physicians exercise at least four days per week, more than other generations, and millennials the least (25%). Some challenges are universal. Like the rest of the population, half of all physician say they are trying to lose weight.
  • Alcohol. Baby boomers also drink alcohol more each week compared with physicians in younger generations. Only 17% of millennials take five or more alcoholic drinks per week, as compared with 21% of boomers and nearly 20% of Gen Xers.
  • Marijuana. Like older generations, the vast majority of millennial physicians reported they don’t use cannabis or CBD. But more millennials reported they were more likely to try it if marijuana became legal in their state.
  • Relationships. The majority of physicians (84%) are either married or living with a partner. Overall, a large majority (85%) describe their marriages as good or very good, regardless of generation.
  • Cars. When it comes to what kind of cars physicians drive, Toyota was the top choice across all three generations, following by Honda.