Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health investigated the inconsistencies in reporting past mental health disorders and general medical conditions among midlife to late life adults.
The results found that 81% of the participants with a diagnosis for mental illness under reported their condition, compared with 13% who under reported general medical conditions.
The study included 1,071 adults who were asked to report any previous diagnosis for psychiatric disorders – such as major depression and substance abuse – and other general medical disorders, such as diabetes and cancer.
Self-reports from patients were compared with criteria based diagnoses from records dating back 24 years.
"Stigma associated with mental disorders, as well as the fluctuating course of mental illnesses, might partly explain the discrepancies as well as differences in ages of onset of mental and physical disorders,” Ramin Mojtabai, Associate Professor and senior author of the study, said.
Associate Professor Mojtabai concluded that because symptoms associated with general medical illnesses may be more prevalent in late life, patients may feel the need to report current ones over past mental illnesses.