Main Content

“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Press Comment ‘Fear of Finding Out’ Makes up a Third of Conscious Reasons Why We Don’t Visit The Doctor

Do we have a fear of going to the GP incase something gets flagged up?

  •  Unhealthy people are less likely to visit the GP due to the ‘Fear of Finding Out’
  • 60 percent of adults have a fatalistic or negative attitude towards their own health

  • New report highlights psychological barriers which could be delaying diagnosis and optimal health outcomes

  • The report is launched as AbbVie announces a new partnership programme for 2017, called Live:Lab TM, which aims to improve the nation’s health through focusing on prevention

MAIDENHEAD, UK, 30 January 2017 – AbbVie, a global research-based biopharmaceutical company, today publishes a new evidence review in partnership with think tank 2020health which highlights the psychological reasons which are causing British adults to delay or avoid seeking medical attention.

The new report, titled ‘The Fear of Finding Out: identifying psychological barriers to symptom presentation and diagnosis in the UK’, has found that despite the abundance of health information now available, one of the main barriers preventing adults from making healthier lifestyle choices is a ‘Fear of Finding Out’. This makes up nearly a third of all conscious reasons why individuals may be delaying or avoiding visiting their doctor or seeking medical advice when they may be concerned, or not taking the relevant steps to improve their health.

The ‘Fear of Finding Out’ is more likely to affect those who have an unhealthy lifestyle and are either: smokers, heavy drinkers, have an unhealthy diet and/or are obese. The report highlights the potential scale of this as a barrier to making healthy lifestyle changes. 83 percent of middle aged adults (aged 40 to 60), either drink too much, weigh too much or don’t exercise enough. 40per cent (192,470 deaths) of all the deaths in England are related to people’s behaviour. Managing this ill health caused by lifestyle is costing the NHS more than £11 billion each year.

Sixty percent of adults in the UK have a negative or fatalistic attitude towards their health. and the report reveals that the ‘Fear of Finding Out’ can be especially true for those would struggle to cope with the knowledge of a life-threatening illness. It can also apply to those who do not want to be ‘pressured into making lifestyle changes’.

The report also reveals differences of attitudes between genders as men were more generally seen to endure symptoms for longer before seeking medical help, and report higher levels of embarrassment during or in relation to medical appointments, than women.

Barriers associated with the ‘Fear of Finding Out’ can include fear of the clinical environment in which the finding out takes place.  Help-seeking may also be delayed due to:  

  • Fears of investigative processes – 33per cent of adults who admitted that they had avoided a doctor visit that they deemed necessary cited ‘discomfort with a body examination’ as the primary reason

  • Fears of outcomes and implications – one of the most widely endorsed barriers to consultation in regards to cancer was found to be the ‘worry about what the doctor might find’, which was true for 34per cent of men and 40per cent of women. Furthermore, one literature review cited in the report found that between 12 and 55per cent of people who undergo testing for HIV fail to return to learn whether they are infected

Some of the psychological fears faced by those who may delay seeking medical advice are highlighted in the report, and include:

  • The fear of appearing weak

  • The fear of shame that may accompany a diagnosis

  • The fear of partner abandonment

  • The fear of loss of sexuality post treatment

  • The fear of the results getting into the wrong hands

The launch of this report comes as AbbVie announces a new partnership discovery programme for 2017, called Live:Lab TM. The project is a new ambitious collaboration, which aims to improve the health of the nation by looking deeper into the ‘Fear of Finding Out’ and find an innovative solution to help reduce preventable health conditions and improve quality of life in the middle aged and beyond with a view to alleviating the strain placed on the NHS through chronic disease.

AbbVie is focusing on preventative health, vital in supporting a sustainable NHS, as we become an ageing society. Through Live:Lab TM, AbbVie is recruiting some of the nation’s most forward thinking individuals from the worlds of technology, health, creativity, gaming and data to collaborate and devise an innovative solution that will empower people to take control of their wellbeing.

Julia Manning, Chief Executive and Founder of 2020Health said: “This report highlights some very genuine worries and fears that get in the way of people receiving timely health diagnoses and advice, which require a sympathetic response. It is of particular interest that a lack of motivation and
valuing health less are emphasised as being delaying factors for everyone, not just those with poor health literacy. We have made excellent progress with some conditions, but this paper shows there

is still significant work to be done to understand and solve the issues generally that prevent some people of working age accessing healthcare."