Most of us hate going to the doctor. The smell of disinfectant reminds us of sickness, and the sight of needles is downright scary, plus many practitioners are overburdened — meaning you’re likely to experience an agonizingly long wait. But if you think it’s OK to skip your annual exam, think again: Missed doctor’s appointments can increase your risk of death.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow, Lancaster University and the University of Aberdeen and published in BMC Medicine, examined the medical histories of more than 500,000 patients. They found that missing an appointment was detrimental to one’s health. In fact, missing two or more checkups each year increased an individual’s risk of death threefold, particularly for those dealing with long-term physical conditions.
But those with mental health conditions fared far worse. If they missed two appointments, their risk of death increased eight times.
Dr. Ross McQueenie from the University of Glasgow explained why in a statement: “Patients diagnosed with long-term mental health problems, who did die during the follow-up period, died prematurely, often from non-natural external factors such as suicide.”
And Dr. David A. Ellis added, “[T]hese results align with clinicians [sic] own observations. Specifically, patients with long-term mental health conditions are more likely to miss multiple appointments.”
This information is not without flaws, and a missed doctor’s appointment isn’t always the end of the world; however, it is important, as it could change how doctors and health care providers respond and/or intervene. “These findings are crucially important for GPs wishing to identify patients at high risk of premature death,” professor Philip Wilson explained in a statement. “For people with physical conditions missed appointments are a strong independent risk factor for dying in the near future. Among those without long-term physical conditions, the absolute risk is lower, but missing appointments is an even stronger risk marker for premature death from non-natural causes.”
Bottom line: While it can be hard, try to keep your appointments. They can (literally) save your life.