Why did an American doctor want to know all these details?

I recently saw a new doctor here in the US. As part of the ream of forms I had to fill out, there was a section where I was apparently supposed to identify my ancestries, and it referenced several European backgrounds where I know, to a fair genealogical confidence, that I have ancestry, so I marked those. There were separate line items for “German” and “Bavarian”. I’ve never seen such a detailed questionnaire on ancestry from a doctor.

What is the purpose of this? Are Bavarians considered different from other people or other Germans in some way that could realistically make a doctor make a different decision? Are Bavarians considered especially subject to certain rare genetic conditions?


Doctor: “Prep the patient for a colonoscopy!”
Nurse (flipping through papers) : “Wait, he’s Bavarian with a touch of Irish!”
Doctor: “Oh, whoops. Definitely don’t want to colonoscopy a Bavarian. Their colons are usually filled with gunk that messes up the scope. Set him up for an MRI, stat.”

Or is this likely to just be a statistical thing related to equal access or something, and they listed Bavarian because someone once claimed that the doctor was biased against Bavarians?

Also, it seems that many doctors (not just this one) are keen on knowing your marital state. I can understand why they want to know if you are married or not married, for example so they can get consent for treatment if you become incompetent/unconscious. But why does it matter to them if I am “single”, “divorced”, or “widowed”? Do doctors feel that, on average, divorcees respond better than never married people to certain treatments and both of them respond better than widowed people? It can’t just be related to sexual activity, because they asked nothing at all about that, and saying you are single nowadays doesn’t mean you aren’t sleeping with someone tonight.

Being divorced or widowed is correlated with reduced life expectancy. Being single, not so much.

Germany contains several ethnically distinguishable regions, of which Bavaria is one. I have no idea why Bavarians would be singled out, but not, say, Swabians. Some of these populations have particular susceptibility to genetic diseases, but I know of no such conditions among Bavarians.

Perhaps Bavarian is used to distinguish as opposed to German heritage but not from the Rhine area. Seems an odd way to go about it if that is the point.

Ashkenzai Jews, mostly from the areas closer to the Rhine, have an elevated incident of Tays Sachs disease. Genetic screening of this sub-population is widely recommended for this condition.

Is there a generally accepted reason for this, or is a statistical thing where causation cannot be shown? For example, does the very act of getting divorced damage your body to the point where it seriously reduces your life expectancy, or is it the case that people who are less healthy overall and therefore likely to die early are more likely to get divorced than healthy people looking forward to a long life, for example because people who have unhealthy habits such a drug abuse or lack of exercise are more likely to see divorce as an acceptable option?

Well, if your a male, you ex-wife got everything you own in the divorce, so the doctor expects you to be depressed. Plus with alimony and child support payments, you will have little or no money left for little things such as food, clothing and appropriate shelter. Affording routine medical care is probably not possible either. Not to mention, when she left with her boyfriend she most likely ripped your still beating heart right out of your chest and stomped on it, so that isn’t good for long term life expectancy. Yep, the doctor is aware of divorce’s effect on your long term survival. :smiley:

I have a hard time thinking of any good reason why a physician would want to know these details.

There are quite a few things on questionnaires when you see a new M.D. that I find irrelevant, unimportant and/or privacy-invasive and leave blank. The less unnecessary and potentially harmful information floating around the electronic record, the better in my view. This does not include things such as current medications, allergies etc.

Jackmannii M.D.

Neither. Or both, if you prefer. Divorce causes stress, which is bad for you, but it also correlates with a whole bunch of other things which are bad for you.

Or, y’know, it could be a man with a partner, keeps more regular hours, eats something resembling 3 squares, is often forced out socially, getting more exercise, often drinking less, and sometimes drinking and driving less, or not at all, taking his meds routinely, sees a dr in a timely fashion.

I’m just sayin’ these things could also be a factor.

It’s always been my understanding that a big part of this is that being single, divorced, or widowed is correlated with living alone, and when you live alone, you don’t have someone calling 911 when you fall and break your hip or dragging you to urgent care when you have 104 degree fevers. Or just plain nagging you to get to the doctor to look at something.

That effect seems like it would hit single, divorced, and widowed people evenly, however, which contradicts what Nametag said upthread, so I’d be happy to have ignorance fought here, if I’m wrong.

At a public hospital my wife was asked what kind of appliances she had, household income, lots of irrelevant info we assumed was for some kind of government demo stats.

I wonder if the single/divorced/married/widowed question has anything to do with insurance?

There’s also the indisputable fact that some people are single for a reason and that reason could well include susceptibility to something or other than potential mates are picking up on, not necessarily consciously.

Insurance information isn’t collected on patient intake forms. There is separate paperwork for that.

Interesting responses. Anyone have any other thoughts about the ancestry question? I marked “Irish” on the form as one of my answers but the doctor didn’t ask me how much whiskey I drank or whether or not I am worried that any of my sisters are being kept in a convent against their will. I marked “German”, but the doctor didn’t ask me if I thought that Jewish people were evil or whether I lack a sense of humor to the extent that it interferes with social relationships.

Are there any genetic conditions where distinguishing J. Random Irishman and getting him screened versus not screening J. Random Frenchman or J. Random Scot would be considered important because they are much less likely to have the condition? Are there any other reasons why an American doctor would care if an American patient could or could not be considered to be ethnically Irish?

Ethnic heritage could certainly be relevant, sometimes. Certain diseases are linked to heredity or at least occur more frequently in certain ethnicities. But it would depend on what you’re going to the doctor for. Some might just want a complete history or use a standard form for every little thing.

And a quick Google search reveals:

I didn’t find anything for Bavaria. I’m not a doctor or geneologist though. Maybe there’s something.

The ancestry question is a good one. There are diseases that particularly plague those from certain countries. MS in scandanavians, thallasemia in those of mediteranean heritage along with many other diseases.

The m/w/d I have no idea why that question is important.