Study suggests too much confidence can lead to less doctor visits


A recent study found that older individuals who overestimate their health visit the doctor less often, which can lead to negative health outcomes.

The study, published in The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, was conducted by Sonja Spitzer, PhD, from the Institute for Demography at the University of Vienna and Mujaheed Shaikh, PhD, from the Hertie School in Berlin. For this study, Spitzer and Shaikh aimed to understand how confidence in one’s health affects how often they visit the doctor. To do this, the researchers analyzed 80,000 Europeans aged 50 and older using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) from the years 2006 to 2013.

In the SHARE study, participants were asked specific questions on how they assessed their own health. Later, based on the questions they asked participants, researchers would assess the participants’ health. For example, researchers would ask the participant if they had trouble getting out of a chair and later observe the participant getting out of a chair. In doing this, researchers were able to determine whether the participant overestimated, underestimated, or correctly estimated their own health. After accounting for misjudgments and problems with mobility, results showed that 79 percent of participants correctly assessed their health, 11 percent of participants overestimated their health, and 10 percent underestimated themselves.

For this study, Shaikh and Spitzer observed how often a participants visited the doctor based on their assessment of their own health. According to the study, Europeans who overestimated their health visited the doctor 17 percent less that those who correctly assessed their health. In contrast, the study found that those who underestimate their health visited the doctor 24 percent more.

This study indicates that older people who overestimate their health are less likely to visit the doctor, which can lead to late detection of disease and negative health outcomes, according to researchers. The study found that educated people were more likely to correctly assess their health. According to researchers, these results underscore the importance of health education and literacy.