medical stethoscopeOur health industry advocates regular health checks but we rarely ask how beneficial they are to our overall health.

“Such checks are intuitively a good thing on the basis that early knowledge about problems gives you more time to deal with them,” Dr Don Coid, Director Medical Services at St John of God Murdoch Hospital says.

“There is a danger of people ignoring symptoms that appear after the checks, feeling that they have already been ‘checked out’ so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Recent research suggests our annual appointments are not as useful as we think.

The Cochrane review[1] in 2012 found that general health checks did not reduce morbidity or mortality, neither overall nor for cardiovascular or cancer causes. They also noted that important disadvantages of health checks had not been properly studied.

Similarly, public health luminaries Professor Simon Capewell, Faculty of Public Health Vice President in the UK and Professor Walter Holland concluded health checks have been repeatedly shown to be ineffective.[2]

“By all means, continue to have general health checks, but it’s also very important to see your doctor as symptoms arise to distinguish dangerous from unimportant conditions,” Dr Coid says.

[1] Krogsboll, LT et al.  General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease.  Cochrane Database Syst review 2012; 10: CD009009

[2] Capewell, S. et al.  Invited NHS Health Checks – a naked emperor?  Journal of Public Health, 37 (2), 187 – 192


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