The immortal phrase “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” is often invoked when someone’s response is entirely predictable perhaps because they have a vested interest in giving a particular answer or a prone to a particular bias- though actually Mandy Rice-Davies said Well, he would, wouldn’t he? While sometimes a valid point, it can be somewhat trite. Economists are not immune to the suggestion that particular policy recommendations are driven by self-interest although personally I don’t find it very plausible (and yes I would say that).
It seems we’re not the only group with this problem. This recently published study from Obesity (a Nature journal) shows that how physicians treat their patients’ obesity is a function of their own Body Mass Index. I suppose it is not surprising, doctors are human after all (even if their earnings would sometimes suggest they are super-human). I suppose next someone will even suggest that politicians’ judgements are prone to some sort of bias.
Sara N. Bleich, Wendy L. Bennett, Kimberly A. Gudzune and Lisa A. Cooper
Using a national cross-sectional survey of 500 primary care physicians conducted between 9 February and 1 March 2011, the objective of this study was to assess the impact of physician BMI on obesity care, physician self-efficacy, perceptions of role-modeling weight-related health behaviors, and perceptions of patient trust in weight loss advice. We found that physicians with normal BMI were more likely to engage their obese patients in weight loss discussions as compared to overweight/obese physicians (30% vs. 18%, P = 0.010). Physicians with normal BMI had greater confidence in their ability to provide diet (53% vs. 37%, P = 0.002) and exercise counseling (56% vs. 38%, P = 0.001) to their obese patients. A higher percentage of normal BMI physicians believed that overweight/obese patients would be less likely to trust weight loss advice from overweight/obese doctors (80% vs. 69%, P = 0.02). Physicians in the normal BMI category were more likely to believe that physicians should model healthy weight-related behaviors—maintaining a healthy weight (72% vs. 56%, P = 0.002) and exercising regularly (73% vs. 57%, P = 0.001). The probability of a physician recording an obesity diagnosis (93% vs. 7%, P < 0.001) or initiating a weight loss conversation (89% vs. 11%, P ≤ 0.001) with their obese patients was higher when the physicians’ perception of the patients’ body weight met or exceeded their own personal body weight. These results suggest that more normal weight physicians provided recommended obesity care to their patients and felt confident doing so.