Millions of people get physicals every year in order to find any potential health issues and get advice on diet and exercise. However, researchers are debating whether healthy people with no symptoms require routine exams, and whether annual physicals are worth the healthcare money used for them.
— Catalina Gonella, Nia Creator
Interesting read especially since I just had my physical yesterday. Physical are helpful in building a relationship with a doctor, catching something that may not have otherwise been caught until later, and providing patients a chance to talk to their doctor about certain matters that may not have seemed concerning enough an issue to pay for a separate appointment. Plus insurance usually covers these and preventatives measures are found to be incredibly effective.
Physicals can help detect bodily issues that an individual might not notice themselves. Early intervention for certain diseases and illnesses helps saves a patient money because the issue is tackled before it becomes malignant. It's better to be safe than sorry. If an individual is insured and can afford to get annual physicals, then I see no need for them not to.
I think physicals are worth it because not only do they often help to detect and prevent health issues that may otherwise go by unnoticed, but they foster the patient-doctor relationship which in my opinion is priceless. I think that knowing your doctor is extremely beneficial because once a health issue does come up, you will feel comfortable talking to them about it.
Many aspects of physicals are unnecessary and a waste for those who are young and symptom-less. But, certain tests are still recommended annually, thought it seems that a formal physical exam is not necessary (ie: blood pressure can even be taken at your local super market). It seems other tests, such as mammograms or certain vaccines, are recommended on different timelines altogether. Though annual physical exams may prove pointless, the best course of action may be to sit down (not-annually) with your doctor and clarify these timelines and expectations.
While there are can be unnecessary testing done at physicals, people may benefit from going to physicals because it starts a dialogue with their doctor. Whether it is just to check in about weight, mental health, and talk about any concerns, having a relationship with a doctor can be useful. If people want to go to annual physicals, they should go. If they feel okay without having that relationship, that's fine, too.
Most of the science and medical opinion suggests that annual physicals haven't lived up to their hopes and promises when the patient is healthy and has no complaints.
The studies basically are showing that there's a lot of unnecessary and sometimes detrimental activity from your basic annual physical, and they're not effective at detecting anything serious where there's enough time to do anything about it (no matter how much we wish they did).
Clearly, if people have any complaints, questions, concerns, or are due for specific, recommended screenings (e.g. colonoscopies), then going to the doctor is the right thing to do. Doctors will still play an important role in people's health, obviously.
Maybe one day, tests will be accurate and complete enough that basic screening activities can result in more effective outcomes. But that day is not today.
It seems from most of the articles that annual physicals are not necessary IF you are overall a healthy person and lead a healthy lifestyle. The BMJ article at the top clearly stated that annual physicals do not necessarily lead to longevity or reduce mortality. Time is a very valuable resource, if you are young and healthy going to a physical could simply be a waste of time. That said, many of these studies referenced above refer to healthy individuals and the evidence seems to suggest that annual physicals are not necessary for this set of people as long as they are symptom-less. An older age group (60years+), people who have predisposed genetics to certain diseases, and generally unhealthy people, however, are not a part of many of these studies and should not be dissuaded from preventative care, as they might actually benefit from annual physicals.