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You Probably Don’t Need an Annual Checkup With Your Doctor

check up
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

It would seem like getting a yearly physical would make you less likely to die of an otherwise undiagnosed malady than someone who doesn’t go in for such checkups. But that may not be the case.

A study by Danish researchers of 14 long-term trials involving 182,880 people has found that there is no difference in the death rate between those who get regular check ups and those who don’t, but that there also is no difference in the rate of disability, worry, specialist referrals, additional visits to doctors or time off work.

“From the evidence we’ve seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial,” lead researcher Lasse Krogsbøll of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a statement. “One reason for this might be that doctors identify additional problems and take action when they see patients for other reasons.”

One of the trials Krogsbøll and his team looked at did find that those who go in for regular checkups are 20 percent more likely get a diagnosis than those who don’t. However, this increase in diagnoses didn’t translate to better health outcomes for that group.

This suggests that—beyond being useless—regular checkups may actually push people to be treated for conditions in which treatment isn’t beneficial.


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