If a doctor’s job is to keep you healthy, why would you lie to them?

Patients are supposed to confide in their doctors in order to achieve optimal, healthy lifestyles. However, nearly half of patients lie to their physicians about their health conditions, according to a recent patient survey.

Among study participants, 47% admitted to “sometimes” or “often” lying to a doctor. Conversely, only 23% of patients surveyed admitted they had “never” lied to their doctor.

So, why are patients not being completely honest with their primary caretakers?

Patients most often lie about how closely they adhere to specific doctor orders (38%), such as continuing to smoke while being treated for lung disease or drinking soda after being diagnosed with diabetes.

These noncompliant patients have a devastating effect on the United States healthcare system. Research shows that patients who do not take their medications as prescribed account for around $290 billion per year in avoidable medical spending, or roughly 13% of all healthcare costs.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Embarrassment was the biggest reason reported for lying (50%).
  • The next biggest issues patients lie about are their diet/exercise (37%) and sex life (32%).
  • Patients are more than twice as likely to tell the truth to an older doctor.
  • Women are 16% less likely to tell the truth to a male doctor, while men are 30% more likely to tell the truth to a female doctor.

Some other common reasons for lying were:

  • My financial situation and how much healthcare I can afford (25%).
  • Which symptoms I actually have or don’t have (24%).
  • How much alcohol I normally drink (24%).
  • How much I smoke (23%).
  • Use of recreational drugs (22%).