Worker Health and Wellness Health Care Workers Home and Community Safety & Health Wellness

Most people aren’t fully honest with doctors, study finds

Photo: FatCamera/iStockphoto

Ann Arbor, MI — Many people aren’t upfront with their doctors and other health care providers about some of their habits and behaviors, which likely reduces the quality of care they receive, results of a recent study show.

Researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Michigan and other universities looked at a combined 4,510 responses from a pair of online surveys in which participants were asked about common scenarios in which they might withhold information from their physician.

In the first survey, which had an average participant age of 36, more than 80 percent of respondents said they’ve withheld medically relevant information in at least one of seven scenarios presented to them as part of the study. In the second survey – in which average participant age was 61 – more than 60 percent indicated the same.

Things participants are less than honest with their physicians about include:

  • Exercise and/or diet habits.
  • All the medications they’re taking.
  • Not taking medications as instructed.
  • Taking someone else’s prescribed medicine.
  • Not understanding the provider’s instructions.
  • Disagreeing with the provider’s recommendations.

Reasons for withholding information include “not wanting to be judged or lectured,” and not wanting to be viewed as difficult or taking up a provider’s time.

Women, younger respondents and those with “worse self-rated health” were more likely to withhold information.

“Perhaps by acknowledging how common it is for patients to withhold information, clinicians may be able to make it easier for patients to share their concerns and acknowledge their less-than-ideal behaviors,” study co-author Brian Zikmund-Fisher, associate professor of health behavior and health education and research associate professor of internal medicine at UM, said in a Nov. 30 press release. “Such conversations will only occur, however, if clinicians address patients’ fears that they will be judged or lectured.”

The survey results were published online Nov. 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)