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BALTIMORE (CBS Baltimore) – We have all been told that our annual checkups can help us be healthier, but is it really worth it?
A new study by the Cochrane Library finds that physicals won’t benefit a patient’s health or reduce their risk for chronic disease or dying.
“From the evidence we’ve seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial,” study author Lasse Krogsboll, a researcher at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a press release. “One reason for this might be that doctors identify additional problems and take action when they see patients for other reasons.”
Stephanie Thompson and Marcelo Tonelli, two researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada wrote an accompanying commentary on the study and found that a routine check-up was one of the two most common reasons patients visited their doctor.
“Concerns about over diagnosis notwithstanding, general health checks are considered by physicians and the public as both necessary and recommended,” Thompson and Tonelli stated in their findings.
The researchers reviewed almost 183,000 people. One group of participants was assigned to receive a check-up and the other group was not.
The researchers found that routine check-ups led to more diagnoses. Out of the group that saw a physician, they were most commonly diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“It is generally recognized that screening should be based on evidence from randomized trials showing a favorable balance between benefits and harms,” Krogsboll told TIME. “In our review we could not find that, and we therefore cannot see any justification for public health programs pushing for routine health checks.”
Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, a group of medical advisors to the government that make guideline recommendations, told WebMD, “one of the reasons check-ups may not have worked is the review included studies form the 1960s and 1970s, when doctors ordered many test during wellness exams.”
The Task Force does recommend screening patients for obesity since weight loss can reduce health risks.