A recent study has revealed scary statistics about Aussie health screenings – namely, that most of us aren’t keeping up to date with them.
Millions – yes, millions – of Australians are missing out on the opportunity to detect potentially deadly diseases early because we’re skipping basic screening tests.
While the majority of us acknowledge that having preventative screening tests is important to our overall health, 73% of us admit to not having a test we believe is relevant to us.
Leading life insurer TAL conducted the study, surveying 1006 respondents from all over Australia aged between 18 and 65+ years old. They found that, of those who have skipped out on important screenings, 39% attributed their inaction to simply not knowing what to be tested for.
Even more startling, despite the fact that 94% of Australians visit their GP at least once a year, many are unaware that screening tests can be undertaken at their GP – in many cases, there’s no need to see a fancy specialist or wait months for an appointment.
“We know that Australians are already making visits to the GP each year, and care deeply about their health, but they are failing to get preventative tests due to the confusion around how and where to get them, and which are most relevant for them,” says Dr Sally Phillips, General Manager of Health Services at TAL.
According to Sally, our inertia around important preventative screening tests could mean millions of us are placing ourselves at increased risk of being impacted by health conditions.
One particularly worrying example of missed potential for detecting health conditions early lies in Australia’s single leading cause of death, heart disease. Despite the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ medical recommendation that Australians be checked every two years above the age of 45, TAL’s research found more than 2 in 5 (41%) people over 45 years old have never had a cardiovascular test.
“Early diagnosis of a health condition can be extremely effective to overall health and can help reduce the need for expensive treatments by detecting a condition before it reaches an advanced stage,” Sally says.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ medical recommendations are as follows…
For blood pressure, all adults should be tested at least every two years from 18 years of age. People at low risk should be measured every two years, people at moderate risk should be measured every 6-12 months and people at high risk should be measured every 6-12 weeks.
For heart disease, adults aged 45 years and over should get tested every two years
For bowel cancer, people at average risk aged 50-74 years should have an Immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) every two years. People at moderately increased risk aged 40-49 years should have an iFOBT every two years, while people at moderately increased risk aged 50-74 years should have a colonoscopy every five years. People at high risk aged 35-44 should have a iFOBT every two years, while those aged 45-74 should have a colonoscopy every five years.
Everyone should be screened for risk of diabetes mellitus every three years from 40 years of age, while people at high risk with impaired glucose tolerance test or fasting glucose should be screened every 12 months.
For breast cancer, women at low risk should be tested every two years from 50 to 74, women at moderate risk should be tested at least every two years from 50 to 74 years of age and women at high risk should be tested once a year.
For cervical cancer, women should be screened every two years from the age of 18 – 70, and are to begin screening from 18 or two years after first having sexual intercourse (whichever is later). However, in consideration of the new HPV vaccine introduced in 2017, women are now instructed to undertake the new HPV screening test every five years, from age 25. It’s always best to consult your GP about how frequently you should be screened.
For family history tests, they should be repeated at least every three years.
TAL’s Health Sense Plus program is aimed at tackling confusion around health screenings, incentivising and rewarding Australians who engage with and undertake a range of preventative screening tests by providing a 5% discount for two years on their Life, Critical Illness and TPD Insurance premiums, where they fall within an acceptable BMI range and undertake a preventative screening test.
Always consult your GP to find the best option for you.