A 2015 study by ZocDoc found that 30 percent of women lie or withhold information from their doctors, compared to 23 percent of men. The primary reasons patients skirt the truth include embarrassment and lack face time with doctors. Nearly half (46%) of Americans have avoided telling their doctor about a health issue because they were embarrassed or afraid of being judged. Around a third say they withheld details because they couldn’t find the right opportunity or didn’t have enough time during the appointment (27%), or because the doctor didn’t ask any questions about anything that was bothering them (32%).
About 3,000 people took part in the survey, and among them, 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men preferred a casual chat with other types of professionals like hairstylists, manicurists, and even fitness pros at the gym to confess their unhealthy habits.
No. 1 Lie: I Quit Smoking
According to a 2013 report published in Health and Education Behavior, one in 10 smokers admitted to lying to a healthcare provider about smoking. Those are just the people that admitted lying. This is no laughing matter. Lying about smoking can change how your doctor treats you for things like bronchitis. Bronchitis is typically treated more aggressively for smokers. Also, lying about smoking could change what medications a doctor prescribes. Some medications are not recommended for people (like smokers) that are at risk of heart disease, lung disease, and strokes.
No. 2 Lie: I Don’t Drink Much
No surprise here. Drinking and smoking are two of the most common causes of poor health and are habits that people tend to cling to. Only 1 in 6 even mention alcohol consumption in the exam room, according to WebMD. Doctors are on to you. If you claim to drink a beer a day, they’ll assume you drink two. Usually, “whatever a patient tells [us] is half of what they actually do drink,” says Brian Doyle, MD, with the UCLA School of Medicine. Honesty here is important too, as alcohol affects blood pressure, live enzymes, blood thickness, and other organs and functions that could make other treatments problematic or dangerous.
No. 3 Lie: I Only Took Drugs in College
Taking illegal drugs–street drugs or prescription pills from other people–are issues people also hide from their doctor. Part of the reason for this has traditionally been fear of this information being documented on medical records. This is changing as attitudes toward some drugs like cannabis change. The fact is that this information cannot be shared without your consent, and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has detailed privacy protections around medical record specifically related to drug and alcohol use.
The fact of the matter is that if you lie to your doctor, the treatment he or she gives you for whatever ails you may not be effective, or it may make it worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “It is estimated that more than 700,000 individuals are seen in hospital emergency departments for adverse drug events each year in the United States.” From cough medicine to cannabis, concealing what you put in your body from your doctor can be dangerous.