In spite of continued medical expansion and increased access to health care facilities, people today feel less healthy than they did 25 years ago, research has found.
It seems counter-intuitive, but that is what the evidence shows. More medicine does not lead to citizens feeling better about their health - it actually hurts.
The study published in the journal Social Science Research found that three dimensions of medical expansion - medical investment, medical professionalization/specialization, and an expanded pharmaceutical industry - negatively affect individual subjective health.
"Access to more medicine and medical care doesn't really improve our subjective health. For example, in the United States, the percentage of Americans reporting very good health decreased from 39 percent to 28 percent from 1982 to 2006," said Hui Zheng, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
In fact, Zheng conducted what is called a "counterfactual analysis" using the data to see what would have happened if the medical industry hadn't expanded at all in these countries since 1982. In this analysis, other factors that are generally linked to improved health, such as economic development, were left unchanged.
Under this scenario, the analysis predicted that self-rated health would have increased in these 28 countries. For example, the percentage of Americans reporting very good health could have increased by about 10 percent.
"It seems counterintuitive, but that's what the evidence shows. More medicine doesn't lead to citizens feeling better about their health -- it actually hurts," Zheng said.
There are several reasons why medical expansion may actually lead people to feel less healthy, said Zheng. For one, more diseases are discovered or ‘created’, which increases the risk of being diagnosed with ‘new’ diseases. Three examples include the rise in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and autism.
In addition, there is more aggressive screening, which turns up more diseases in people. Over diagnosis can potentially cause harm to perfectly healthy people.