Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

General Health Checks for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality

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Am Fam Physician. 2013 Oct 1;88(7):432-433.

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for continuing medical education (CME). See the CME Quiz.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

Do general health checks in adults reduce morbidity and mortality?

Evidence-Based Answer

Although general health checks increase the number of new diagnoses, they do not decrease total, cardiovascular-related, or cancer-related morbidity or mortality. The studies in this Cochrane review have limited applicability to the current recommended practice of providing selective, evidence-based preventive services in primary care settings. (Strength of Recommendation: B, based on inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence.)

Practice Pointers

The general health check (also known as the complete physical examination or periodic health evaluation) has been a standard part of medical practice for years. Despite a lack of consensus on the value of the complete physical examination, physicians and patients continue to support it. In fact, 66% of the public think that having an annual complete physical examination is necessary.1 Physicians cite perceived benefits to the physician-patient relationship, patient expectations

The practice recommendations in this activity are available at


Krogsbøll LT, Jørgensen KJ, Grønhøj Larsen C. General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(10):CD009009.


1. Oboler SK, et al. Public expectations and attitudes for annual physical examinations and testing. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(9):652–659.

2. Prochazka AV, et al. Support of evidence-based guidelines for the annual physical examination: a survey of primary care providers. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(12):1347–1352.

3. Sox HC. The health checkup: was it ever effective? Could it be effective? JAMA. 2013;309(23):2496–2497.

4. Boulware LE, et al. Systematic review: the value of the periodic health evaluation. Ann Intern Med. 2007;146(4):289–300.

5. Bloomfield HE, et al. Evidence brief: role of the annual comprehensive physical examination in the asymptomatic adult. Project #09-009. VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Briefs [Internet]. Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs; 2011. Accessed December 2012.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

The series coordinator for AFP is Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency, Lancaster, Pa.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at

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