As many as 4 out of 5 Americans withhold important information from their doctor that could prove crucial to their health, a new study shows.
Between 60 and 80 percent of people admit they avoid telling their doctor details that could be relevant to their well-being.
"I know at some level this is a 'no duh,' of course, people mislead, but I was surprised how pervasive it is," said senior researcher Angela Fagerlin, chair of population health sciences at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. "A lot of people are not fully honest with their provider. They don't tell them all the information they could tell them."
Shame and fear appear to be at the root of this lack of communication, the researchers found.
Patients don't want to admit that they disagree with their doctor or don't understand what the doctor has told them, Fagerlin said. People also don't want to fess up about their unhealthy behaviors.
But keeping this information secret can lead to some very dire consequences.
The most common thing people don't tell their doctor is that they don't agree with the physician's recommended course of treatment, the researchers found. About 46 percent of people in the younger group and 31 percent in the older group said they'd done this.
This is not good because people who disagree with their doctor might not follow through on taking prescribed medications or receiving recommended follow-up tests, Fagerlin said.
Second most often, people wouldn't admit that they didn't fully understand the instructions a provider gave them. That happened with 32 percent of younger patients and 24 percent of older patients.
After that, patients most often withheld information about personal habits that could be unhealthy -- poor diet (24 percent for younger and 20 percent for older patients), not taking medication as prescribed (22 and 18 percent), not exercising (22 percent in both groups), or taking someone else's prescription medication (14 and 9 percent).
The researchers also asked why patients didn't tell the whole story, and the No. 1 reason was that they didn't want the doctor to give them a hard time about their behavior (82 and 64 percent)
Other reasons included:
- I didn't want to hear how bad a behavior is for me (76 and 61 percent)
- I was embarrassed to admit something (61 and 50 percent).
- I didn't want the provider to think I'm a difficult patient (51 and 38 percent).
- I -didn't want to take up any more of the provider's time (45 and 36 percent).
- I didn't think it mattered (39 and 33 percent).
- I didn't want the provider to think I'm stupid (38 and 31 percent).
- I didn't want this information in my medical record (34 and 31 percent).
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