Having confidence in the medical staff caring for you might not solve your problems, but it will definitely help you feel better.

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The effects of placebo are wide and far-reaching, as numerous studies have proven over the years. Although it seems like a no-brainer at first, it’s quite intriguing that your mind can have such a strong impact on your body and how you feel. A meta-analysis wanted to see if trust in doctors, therapists and nursing staff has any clinical effects on patients.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel and Harvard Medical School examined 47 studies from Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia which deal with the relationship between trust and an improved state of health in people undergoing medical treatment. The researchers looked at two things: the objective, clinical wellbeing of patients and the subjective wellbeing that the patients themselves reported.

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There were no obvious results when it came to clinical effects. In other words, trusting your doctor doesn’t really solve your medical problems — but, as authors note, it can definitely make you feel better. Patients which reported high trust in the medical staff enjoyed boosted satisfaction, health-related behavior, and quality of life.

“The results of our meta-analysis are a clear indication of the value of patients’ trust in their medical professionals. They emphasize the need to make developing and safeguarding trust an integral part of clinical education and practice,” says Professor Jens Gaab, co-author of the study.

This study emphasizes how important it is to establish a trusted relationship between patients and medical staff. For doctors, earning the trust of their patients is already a well-established principle in the ethical guidelines and professional codes — regardless of field. Yet this is the first meta-analysis to show just how important this principle is. In many parts of the world, trust in the medical system is dwindling with no clear-cut solution in sight.

No one likes to go to the doctor, that much is clear. But if you must go, trusting in the medical staff can make a big difference. As this study showed, if you don’t trust them you’ll end up feeling worse and the overall trust in the medical system will drop even more, creating a domino effect. A properly functioning health care system lies at the core of every functional society.

Journal Reference: Johanna Birkhäuer, Jens Gaab, Joe Kossowsky, Sebastian Hasler, Peter Krummenacher, Christoph Werner, Heike Gerger — Trust in the health care professional and health outcome: A meta-analysis.
PLOS ONE (2017), doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170988