A new study finds that missing doctor appointments is associated with early death, with people who have long-term mental health conditions at particular risk.
For the study, led by Dr. Ross McQueenie from the University of Glasgow along with colleagues from Lancaster University and the University of Aberdeen, the researchers examined more than 500,000 patients’ appointment histories with their general practitioner in Scotland, for the three years between 2013 and 2016.
Appointment information was then linked to patient medical histories and death records.
The researchers found that:
- Patients with a greater number of long-term health conditions had an increased risk of missing general practice appointments. These same patients were also at substantially greater risk of death within the following year.
- Patients with long-term physical conditions who missed two or more appointments a year had a threefold increase in death from any cause compared with those who missed no appointments.
- Patients with mental health conditions only who missed more than two appointments a year had an eight times greater risk of death during the follow-up period compared with those who missed no appointments.
These results emerged even after researchers controlled for a variety of other factors already known to affect attendance, McQueenie noted.
“Patients diagnosed with long-term mental health problems, who did die during the follow-up period, died prematurely, often from non-natural external factors such as suicide,” he said.
The results are in line with doctors’ own observations, according to the researchers, who note that patients with long-term mental health conditions are more likely to miss multiple appointments.
The researchers are now exploring how new interventions might improve attendance. They note, however, that their research “raises important questions when it comes to ensuring that mental health services remain easy to access and are readily available across the UK.”
Source: Lancaster University