But, he added, "we cannot take it for granted that more diagnoses and more treatment is always better. Our results do not tell us what the optimal prevention strategy is, but they certainly do not support the idea of regular, systematic health checkups in addition to normal clinical practice."
Krogsboll and colleagues reported their findings in the Nov. 20 edition of the BMJ.
The studies selected for review dated as far back as 1947 and as recently as 2010. All of the participants were at least 18 years old, but no study was included in the review if it focused exclusively on seniors aged 65 and up.
All checkups had taken place in either a primary care or community care setting; none had occurred in a hospital clinic context.
Most studies included in the current review had been conducted in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, while some had taken place in the United States. Follow-up on patient deaths ranged from as low as four years to as much as 22 years after studies began.
The results: Checkups did lead to an uptick in overall diagnoses, as well as a specific increase in treatment for high blood pressure. However, such routine visits were not linked to any reduction in overall mortality or the risk of dying from cardiovascular illness or cancer.
The research team suggested another problem: Patients who decide on their own to go in for a routine physical may not actually be the sort -- such as those who haven't seen a doctor in a while -- who would most benefit from a checkup.
But just how broadly should the findings be interpreted?
"I do think that the results are applicable to America," Krogsboll said, pointing out that one study, in particular, had been conducted among Kaiser Permanente health plan members. However, he acknowledged that what exactly consti
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