It’s no secret that being a doctor often goes a long way in the world of dating. It’s not just the sex appeal of a man or a woman in a white coat. It turns out that there’s an excellent, rigorously researched reason why physicians make for attractive mates. It’s all spelled out in this 2018 BMJ Open study, which examined personality traits among physicians and surgeons. It turns out that there is a typical physician (and surgeon) personality. And when you look at what that personality is and how it compares to the average population, it’s plain to see why physician singles are often sought after.
Why doctors are attractive mates
In addition to the more obvious physician characteristics (high intelligence, highly motivated, strong income potential), doctors make good partners because of their personalities, according to the aforementioned BMJ Open study. The study used the five-factor model of personality to evaluate the personalities of more than 5,000 international physicians and surgeons. The five factors (which you can remember using the acronym OCEAN), also known as the Big 5 in the world of psychology, are as follows:
People who rate high in openness tend to be willing to have new experiences. They’re often inventive and curious, whereas people low in openness are more consistent and cautious.
Those who are conscientious tend to be organized, and efficient. Those who rate low in conscientiousness can be more easy going, but also sometimes careless.
Perhaps the most widely known of the Big 5, people with high levels of extraversion are outgoing and energetic. Those who rate low in extraversion levels prefer solitary experiences and are generally more reserved.
People with high levels of agreeableness are compassionate and friendly. Those low in agreeableness can be more detached and at times challenging.
People with high levels of neuroticism tend to be sensitive and nervous, whereas those on the lower end of the spectrum are more confident and secure.
The physician personality
After reviewing the data, researchers concluded that there is a common physician personality. Chances are that if you’re a physician and you’re reading this, if we were to compare you to the population average, you would be more open, conscientious, extraverted, and agreeable. As an added plus, you’d also be less neurotic.
Surgeons differ, but only slightly. According to the study findings, they are still higher than average in conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, and lower in neuroticism than the average population. However, when comparing to standard physicians, surgeons were even lower in neuroticism, but also lower in openness and extraversion. There is no significant difference in conscientiousness or agreeableness.
The researchers added that all of this bears out for residents and medical students, too.
What does it mean for dating?
Research seems to indicate that levels of neuroticism are the best predictors of romantic success. In this case, we’re defining romantic success as lasting relationships. This often-cited study from 1987 indicates that neuroticism of the husband, neuroticism of the wife, and impulse control of the husband were the biggest predictors of divorce. This is great news for physicians, who scored lower than average in neuroticism. Furthermore, physicians have better-than-average conscientiousness levels, so impulse control likely won’t be as big of an issue.
A more recent study from 2010 sheds some light on the role agreeableness and conscientiousness play in the mating process — both Big 5 traits that physicians rank highly in. The study looked at 20,000 couples from three countries and found that agreeableness and conscientiousness were predictors of overall satisfaction in marriage. Once again, good news for single doctors.
High extraversion among physicians, however, might prove to be a double-edged sword, depending on what they’re after. This 2008 study found that those who rate high in extraversion tend to gravitate toward more frequent, casual sexual encounters. We’re not judging. Just be clear on what you’re after and as you might advise your own patients, practice safe sex.
Taking all of this into consideration, it amounts to more reasons to feel good about being a doctor. If you’re already in a relationship, you might thank your chosen career for helping you find your special someone. And if you’re single, all the more encouragement to get out there and date. Check out our Single Doctor’s Guide to Online Dating.
According to one study, physicians are highly datable because:
They tend to be low in neuroticism.
They’re likely more open to new experiences.
Doctors tend to be more organized and efficient, and therefore reliable to a potential mate.
Physicians also tend to be more extraverted.
And no surprise, doctors have high levels of compassion.