Go to content

Ontario doctors have better heart health than the general public


Ontario doctors have fewer cardiovascular risk factors, underwent less preventative testing and were less likely to develop major adverse cardiovascular outcomes than the general public, according to researchers at ICES, a non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues.

The study, released today in JAMA Open Network, compared the cardiovascular health outcomes of physicians to those of the general population.

“There has been increasing concern about the wellness of physicians and increasing rates of burnout. Given cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity, we set to examine the cardiovascular health of clinicians, which has never been studied comprehensively,” says Dr. Dennis Ko, senior author on the study, a senior scientist at ICES and a cardiologist.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in most developed countries. In the United Kingdom and United States, death due to cardiovascular disease has also been shown to be the leading cause of death among physicians.

The researchers looked at the data for 17,071 practicing physicians aged 40 to 75 years and compared them to 5,305,038 million people in the general population in Ontario. They found that physicians used fewer guideline-recommended preventive services and had lower rates of cardiac risk factors. At eight years’ follow-up, physicians had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular events, less heart attacks, and fewer strokes than the general population, even after adjusting for differences in risk factors and health services.

The researchers found that physicians had significantly lower baseline rates of:

  • high blood pressure (16.9 per cent vs. 29.6 per cent)
  • diabetes (5.0 per cent vs. 11.3 per cent)
  • smoking (13.3 per cent vs. 21.6 per cent)

Canadian practice guidelines currently recommend cholesterol testing every five years, and diabetes screening every three years for all individuals 40 years old and older. Physicians also had lower rates of periodic health examinations (58.9 per cent vs. 67.9 per cent), cholesterol screening (76.3 per cent vs. 83.8 per cent), and diabetes screening (79.0 per cent vs. 85.3 per cent), but higher rates of cardiologist consultations (17.8 per cent vs. 13.0 per cent).

“There are still some unknown factors about why cardiovascular events are lower among physicians. If we can identify what they are – we can translate this knowledge to the general public to improve outcomes,” adds Ko.

The study “Comparison of cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes among practicing physicians vs the general population in Ontario, Canada,” was published in JAMA Open Network.

Author block: Dennis T. Ko, Anna Chu, Peter C. Austin, Sharon Johnston, Brahmajee K. Nallamothu, Idan Roifman, Natasa Tusevljak, Jacob A. Udell and Erica Frank.

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996


Contributing ICES Scientists

Research Programs

Associated Sites

Read the Journal Article