Life expectancy grows with supply of primary care doctors

Lauren Vogel CMAJ March 25, 2019 191 (12) E347; DOI:

People live longer in areas with more primary care doctors, according to data from the United States. But the supply of these doctors is shrinking as more medical students choose higher paying specialties.

Life expectancy increased 51.5 days for every 10 more primary care doctors per 100 000 people in the United States between 2005 and 2015, according to a study led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard universities. A similar increase in other specialists boosted life expectancy only 19.2 days.

“Greater supply of primary care physicians appeared to increase the chances that a person would be treated for cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or caught early for major cancers like breast cancer or colon cancer,” according to lead author Dr. Sanjay Basu.

Basu’s team examined data from 3142 counties, 7144 primary care service areas and 306 hospital referral regions. Unlike some previous studies, they accounted for regional factors that might influence longevity, such as poverty levels and numbers of hospital beds, as well as individual factors, including smoking habits and obesity

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