Does Skepticism Towards Medical Care Predict Mortality?

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Abstract

Objectives.

Attitudes towards medical care have a strong effect on utilization and outcomes. However, there has been little attention to the impact on outcomes of doubts about the value of medical care. This study examines the impact of skepticism toward medical care on mortality using data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey (NMES).

Methods.

A nationally representative sample from the United States comprising 18,240 persons (≥ 25 years) were surveyed. Skepticism was measured through an 8-item scale. Mortality at 5-year follow-up was ascertained through the National Death Index.

Results.

In a proportional hazards survival analysis of 5-year mortality that controlled for age, sex, race, education, income, marital status, morbidity, and health status, skepticism toward medical care independently predicted subsequent mortality. That risk was attenuated after adjustment for health behaviors but not after adjustment for health insurance status.

Conclusion.

Medical skepticism may be a risk factor for early death. That effect may be mediated through higher rates of unhealthy behavior among the medically skeptical. Further studies using more reliable measures are needed.

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