Nova Scotia·Health Hacks

We're lying to our doctors … and it's costing us our health

Do you lie to your healthcare provider? As health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton told CBC’s Information Morning, between 60 and 80 percent of patients lie or stretch the truth when giving information to their doctor.

Fibbing to your doctor is like blindfolding a detective you've hired to hunt down clues

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says lying to your doctor can result in misdiagnoses, wrong tests, and the wrong kind of treatment. (Radio-Canada)

This is part of a series from CBC's Information Morning where Halifax health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton discusses her "health hacks" — ways to improve your experience with the health-care system.

Do you deny lying to your doctor? Well, the truth is ... you're probably lying.

As health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton told CBC's Information Morning, between 60 and 80 percent of patients lie or stretch the truth when giving information to their doctor.

"So if you have told a white lie to your doctor, you're in really good company," said Hampton.

She said while many people will omit information they don't consider relevant or forget to mention symptoms, it's the people who deliberately alter facts about their lifestyle that may be getting themselves in trouble.

Hampton says while many people tell little white lies in the doctor's office, the results can have negative health outcomes. (Robert Short/CBC)

What are we lying about?

Hampton said the most common things we lie about are lifestyle habits like diet and alcohol consumption.

"If you're a heavy drinker on the weekend and you kind of slow that drinking down during the week, that's actually an important part of the picture to share with your doctor," said Hampton.

The whole truth is particularly important if you're undergoing tests.

"The test can be thrown off because the doctor's looking for one thing when maybe there is something else, or the alcohol consumption could actually mask what is really going on," she said.

Why are we lying?

Hampton said we lie or withhold information from our doctor because we fear judgment.

"This isn't a lifestyle test. They just need to know how you live your life so they can make some accurate uncovering of what may be ailing you when you come asking for help," she said. "That fear of judgment is something that we really, really have to get over."

Hampton said lying to your doctor is like blindfolding the detective you've hired to search for clues.

"It can actually lead down rabbit holes that get you the wrong kinds of tests or even the wrong kinds of treatment, or a completely wrong diagnosis," she said.

Hampton said many people lie because they simply don't want to hear the inevitable.

"Maybe you'll be told that you need to cut down on your drinking, or that you need to stop smoking, or that you need to be eating a healthier diet. But worst case, you'll hear stuff that you don't want to hear. You're there for advice, you've paid for it, you can take it or leave it, but you may as well get the best possible advice that you can," she said.

So what information should you absolutely tell the truth about?

"That's a simple question. Everything," said Hampton.

With files from CBC's Information Morning


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.