Almost half of patients may withhold information on imminent threats


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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Almost half of patients who face imminent threats such as abuse, suicidality and depression, may not disclose this information to their physicians, according to new research in JAMA Network Open

Using data from two online surveys of 4,510 adults (Amazon’s Mechanical Turk [n=2,011] and Survey Sampling International [n=2,499]), the study looked at how often patients did not disclose four experiences of imminent threat (depression, suicidality, abuse, and sexual assault) and their reasons for doing so. 

A total of 1,292 Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) participants and 1,453 Survey Sampling International (SSI) participants experienced at least one of the four threats. Of these, 613 MTurk participants (47.5%) and 581 SSI participants (40.0%) withheld information from their clinician. 

The most commonly endorsed reasons for nondisclosure included potential embarrassment, not wanting to be judged, or difficult follow-up behaviour such as seeing a therapist. The authors noted respondents who experienced at least one of the imminent threats had significantly higher odds of nondisclosure in both samples if they were female or younger. 

“A better understanding of how to increase patients’ comfort with reporting this information is critical to allowing clinicians to help patients mitigate these potentially life-threatening risks,” the authors said.