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February/March 2013 (vol. 09/5)

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Research Plus

No benefit from general health checks

A Cochrane systematic review finds no evidence to support the use of routine health checks in adults – 16 randomised controlled trials met inclusion criteria; 14 trials, covering 182,800 patients, were included in a meta-analysis. Health screening did not reduce mortality either generally (risk ratio = 0.99; CI 0.95–1.03), for cardiovascular disease (RR = 1.03; CI 0.91–1.17) or for cancer (RR = 1.01; CI 0.92–1.12). It had no impact on morbidity, admissions to hospital, disability, worry, additional visits to the GP, or absence from work. There was some evidence (from one trial) that health screening resulted in greater numbers of new diagnoses, and (from two trials) that it increased the numbers ofpeople on antihypertensive medication. The findings do not imply that physicians should stop clinically motivated testing and preventive activities, as these could explain why systematic health checks showed no effect, or that all individual components of health checks are ineffective.


Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012; 10; CD009009. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009009.pub2.


Occupational Health at Work February/March 2013 (vol. 09/5) pp40-41