We undertook a seven-year in-depth review of all reported obituaries of medical practitioners in the BMJ to assess the age and disease distribution of mortality of medical practitioners in order to identify relationships between mortality and discipline, ethnicity and other demographic factors. In total, 3,342 obituaries reported in the BMJ from January 1997 to December 2004 were reviewed.
The majority of obituaries were of male doctors. Doctors who qualified in the developed world appeared to live longer (mean age at death of 78 years) than those who qualified in Asia (mean age at death of 70 years). White-European doctors lived significantly longer than doctors from other ethnic groups. There was no significant difference in longevity between doctors working in the primary care sector and those in the secondary care sector. An eighth (12.5%) of doctors died between the ages of 60 and 70 years and, of these, nearly half died between the ages of 61 and 65 years. There were significantly more suicides and accidental deaths in Accident and Emergency (A&E) doctors compared with other specialties.
In conclusion, cardiologists are not immortal and need to retire, as do their colleagues in other specialties. Retirement at ages of 65 years or above would disadvantage nearly one in six medical practitioners. Those likely to be most disadvantaged by a mandatory rise in any retirement age, in terms of reaping the benefits of their pension contributions, are those of a non white-European ethnicity.