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Your Annual Physical is Likely a Waste of Time

By HERWriter Guide
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having an annual physical may be wasting your time MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Well, this is one for the books! Just 10 days ago I scheduled my annual physical six weeks ahead.

I'm having it done as part of my own health maintenance and also using it to follow up on some sports injuries I've accrued in the past 18 months.

And today I came across a study that says it might be a waste of time!

At my annual, I'll get a reminder about booking a mammogram (done!), a general exam and a chat about mental health -- the usual stuff my health care provider and clinic offer.

Will I die without it? Certainly not! But it's something I've done with some regularity for the past 15 years and something I plan to continue.

It also helps that I have good insurance. My husband gets an annual and my kids see their pediatrician when needed. Most of my friends get annual physicals too.

So do we actually need these annual physicals? If we're overall healthy human beings with no chronic illness or diseases, what exactly is an annual physical going to do, aside from checking blood pressure and heart rate?

Apparently, it's not going to help much at all, according to a report from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. The report looked at sixteen studies on the subject, following almost 185,000 people .

The general outcome of the research was that while more diagnoses of conditions like high blood pressure were found in those that got the screenings, nobody who had routine checkups actually lived longer than those who did not.

Nine of the trials saw nearly 12,000 deaths over the period of time they were studied. But of the people who died, there was no difference as to whether they were in a group that got annual screenings for conditions like cancer or heart disease, or not.

In England, people are offered free health screenings from age 40 to 74 to conduct standard testing for conditions like heart disease, various cancers and diabetes.

Most people are told that annual screenings for these conditions can find or help prevent them but according to the Copenhagen study, those yearly exams may not really be as helpful as thought.

Add a Comment3 Comments


The cyst that was growing on my thyroid gland was discovered at an annual physical. It would of had to get much bigger for me to have noticed it. Long story short, that physical led to my diagnosis of thyroid cancer. The cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. Who knows how much more serious my state would off been with out the annual check-up.

October 27, 2012 - 3:27pm

Many prevalent health conditions have no overt symptoms. If a person rarely gets sick, he or she may have undiagnosed high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and many others. All of which can cause more serious health issues. If it weren't for my annual exam, I would not have known that I was hypothyroid or had high cholesterol or high blood pressure. All of which are being treated. Since I rarely get "sick" (bad cold, flu, etc.) enough to see a doctor, if it weren't for my annual physical, I would not have the tools & medication to treat those diseases.

So, I think the study makes the wrong conclusions - annual physicals are important for people to be diagnosed with those hidden health problems.

October 25, 2012 - 11:53am

I am not 100% sold on this study. I see people all day long and over the years many people went in for their routine checkup only to discover some illness that was caught early enough to treat. I think for that reason alone you increase your odds of survival.
Marielaina Perrone DDS
Dental Implants Henderson Nevada

October 25, 2012 - 10:26am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.