Let’s get physical; well maybe not so fast

Let’s get physical; well maybe not so fast

Many Americans have made New Year’s resolutions to eat a more balanced diet, get regular exercise, lose a little weight – and, perhaps, schedule an annual physical examination.

Good ideas, huh? Not so fast, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine raises questions about the costs and uncertain results of general, annual physical examinations.

Study leaders reviewed and analyzed research of 14 randomized, controlled trials involving more than 182,000 people. These individuals were followed for an average of nine years to evaluate the benefits of routine, general health checkups.

They concluded that these appointments are unlikely to be beneficial. Regardless of which screenings and tests were administered, studies of annual health exams dating from 1963 to 1999 show that annual physicals did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease. Additionally, checkups cost billions of dollars. No one is sure how much is spent due to the calculating cost of  additional screenings and follow-up tests.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not have a recommendation on routine annual checkups. Still, most adults – and physicians – concede that an annual examination may well be a significant component of one’s overall health, no matter how good one feels.

Despite questions about the necessity of annual exams, some physicians say it’s important to take a long-term view of their health.

“There should not be a concern regarding whether or not annual physical exams are warranted,” says Dr. Gary Stuck, a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, IL.  “It is important that patients and physicians build long-term relationships and have shared decision-making regarding preventive care, immunizations, evidence-based screening or diagnostic testing, and follow-up visits.”

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  1. Lynn Hutley

    I think that it is important to have built a relationship with a physician when health concerns do arise so I don’t mind an annual physical.

  2. I agree with Dr. Stuck. If nothing else, having a yearly physical helps you build a relationship with your doctor in case something actually serious happens.

  3. All these new “guidelines” are about ONE thing: saving insurance companies money. The only line in the whole article that is to the point: “Checkups cost billions of dollars”. And THAT is the bottom line. Notice how all the recent “revised” health recommendations all come down to one thing: “you don’t need it”. Yearly PAP for women to detect cervical cancer? Eh… do it every 3 years. Yearly mammograms? Naw… you don’t “really” need it. Yearly general exam? Of course not. They don’t even want you to do self exams anymore because you might find something that needs to be investigated – and THAT costs money.
    So what happened to all the talk about how we need to catch things as early as possible to have a better chance at survival (especially when it comes to cancer)? Well it’s not “cost-effective”. If they spend money on tests for 100 people to save 4 or 5, that’s not “worth it” – except to you, if YOU are one of the 4 or 5 who is saved, of course. And yes, yearly physicals CAN help – not the part where the doctor listens to your heart and lungs, but doing the blood-work, which can show diabetes, liver failure, kidney issues and much more – even before you have symptoms. And THAT’S the reason to go have it done.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.