Patients often too embarrassed to share health threats with physicians, study finds

People tend to withhold information about imminent health threats they are facing, such as suicidal thoughts or sexual assault, from their clinicians, citing being embarrassed as one reason for not disclosing the information, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers examined results from two national surveys of U.S. adults. One survey included 2,011 participants recruited in March 2015, while the other included 2,499 participants recruited in November 2015.

Of the participants, 1,292 in the first survey and 1,453 in the second reported experiencing one of four imminent threats: Depression, suicidality, abuse or sexual assault.

Among the 1,292 participants in the first survey experiencing one of the health threats, 47.5 percent withheld information from their clinician. Also, 40 percent of participants withheld information from their clinician among the 1,453 participants in the second survey experiencing one of the threats.

The most common reasons for withholding information included being embarrassed; not wanting to be judged or lectured; and not wanting to engage in difficult follow-up processes and behavior.

Women and those who were younger had higher odds of withholding information in both surveys.

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