Everybody is guilty of a few white lies now and then. Telling your aunt that you love her new haircut is a good deed. And telling your host you love the chicken is the right thing to do, even when it tastes odd. In fact, these little lies help make the world a little bit easier for all of us. However, it’s important to be completely honest with your doctors. Lying to your doctor about your bad habits or self-care can cause harm. How can doctors accurately diagnose and treat you if they don’t your true story? Unfortunately, many of us lie to our doctors. Why and when? Read on!
How often do patients lie to doctors?
Plenty of patients admit to lying to doctors. Perhaps even more have lied to doctors but are too embarrassed to admit it. Nonetheless, study results, reported in 2019 by Physician’s Weekly, found that:
- 47% of patients admitted to “sometimes” or “often” lying to a doctor.
- 23% of patients surveyed claimed they had “never” lied to their doctor.
Who has a harder time being honest with doctors – men or women?
A 2015 survey of over 3,000 US adults by ZocDoc found that women are more likely to lie than men – 30% of women and 23% of men admitted to lying or omitting information during a doctor’s appointment.
Additionally, the Physician’s Weekly study found that gender of the doctor and patient can play a role in honesty:
- Women were 16% less likely to tell the truth to a male doctor.
- Men were 30% more likely to tell the truth to a female doctor.
Does age play a role?
Interestingly, the age of the patient and the age of the doctor can influence the likelihood of lying.
The Physician’s Weekly study found that patients were more than 2x as likely to be honest with an older doctor.
And, the ZocDoc survey found a difference related to patient age:
- 64% of respondents over the age of 65 avoided raising issues with their doctor because they felt it was not serious or worth discussing, versus 49% of those between the ages of 18-64.
Why do patients lie or omit information?
There are many reasons patients don’t want to be completely honest with doctors.
In the Physician’s Weekly study, embarrassment was the most commonly reported reason (50%) for lying to doctors.
Furthermore, the ZocDoc survey found that:
- 46% reported they have not told their doctor about a health issue because they were embarrassed or worried about being judged.
- 33% said they couldn’t find the right time during an appointment to tell the doctor everything.
- 27% said they didn’t have enough time in an appointment to tell the doctor all their health-related details.
- 32% reported that they didn’t tell the doctor all of their information because the doctor didn’t ask questions or ask them specifically if anything was bothering them.
What types of issues do patients lie about?
Patients reported lying about the following issues in the Physician’s Weekly study:
- 38% covered up how often they followed – or didn’t follow – their doctor’s specific instructions, such as quitting smoking or giving up sugar.
- 37% lied about diet and exercise.
- 32% lied about their sex life.
- 25% weren’t honest about their financial situation and how much healthcare they can afford.
- 24% weren’t honest about symptoms.
- 23% lied about smoking.
- 22% lied about the use of recreational drugs.
Why should you be honest with your doctors?
Research shows that effective doctor-patient communication is linked to more appropriate medical decisions, better health outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction. When you lie to your doctor about health matters, you make it very hard, if not impossible, for your doctor to properly diagnose and treat you. What might seem like little white lies can negatively impact your health.
How can you be more honest with your doctors?
As obvious as it sounds, tell the truth to your doctor. You can rest assured they have heard plenty of unusual stories in their careers. They will not criticize you – they’re there to help you. Of course, they may offer suggestions on how to improve your health, but realize any comments are made for your own good. So be honest about your personal habits – including exercising (or the lack thereof), smoking, eating, drug use, sleeping habits, etc. Consider your doctor your healthcare partner, not a judge of your life.
And, if for any reason you feel you cannot speak honestly with your doctor, it might be time to find a new doctor. If you decide you need a new doctor, read this blog post for helpful tips: How Do You Find a New Doctor You Can Trust?
Being an engaged member of your medical team can help you get the best care and outcome possible. Read these blog posts for more information:
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- Being an Engaged Patient Can Help You Get the Best Medical Care Possible.
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.