A closer look at the ‘Fear of Finding Out’

Earlier this year, AbbVie, in partnership with leading think tank 2020health, published a report titled ‘The Fear of Finding Out: identifying psychological barriers to symptom presentation and diagnosis in the UK’1.

The report provided the rationale to launch our new corporate initiative, Live:Lab, as it revealed that despite the abundance of health information now available, there are a number of psychological barriers preventing adults from making healthier lifestyle choices1.

The primary finding from the evidence based review was to characterize the ‘Fear of Finding Out’. We found this could be behind nearly a third of all conscious reasons why individuals may be delaying or avoiding visiting their doctor or seeking medical advice when they may be concerned, or not taking the relevant steps to improve their health. The ‘Fear of Finding Out’ can be defined as a range of different fear barriers that result in individuals remaining uninformed about their health status by not seeking medical attention1.

The ‘Fear of Finding Out’ is more likely to affect those who have an unhealthy lifestyle and are either: smokers, heavy drinkers, have an unhealthy diet and/or are obese. When looking at the broader picture, research has shown that as many as 60 percent of adults in the UK have a negative or fatalistic attitude towards their health. The review reveals that the ‘Fear of Finding Out’ can be especially true for those would struggle to cope with the knowledge of a life-threatening illness. It can also apply to those who do not want to be ‘pressured into making lifestyle changes’1.

Interestingly, differences of attitudes between genders are also apparent, as men were more generally seen to endure symptoms for longer before seeking medical help, and report higher levels of embarrassment during or in relation to medical appointments, compared to women1.

When breaking down the term, ‘Fear of Finding Out’, it was discovered that it is made up of the three distinct fear groups – fears of the environment, fears of investigative processes and fears of outcomes and implications1.

We believe that there’s a clear need for more research in this area to better understand why people aren’t engaging with their health, as this in turn would help them live more healthily, and consequentially support a more sustainable NHS.

It is this motivation that has inspired AbbVie to collaborate with some of the leading minds from the world of health, technology and creativity through Live:Lab to find solutions that improve people’s relationship with their health.

AbbVie has no illusions that Live:Lab will be a magic wand for changing the nation’s attitude towards their health. But it believes that everyone, whether that is industry or government bodies, has a role to play in helping reduce preventable health conditions and improving quality of life in middle aged and beyond.

The development of Live:Lab demonstrates that AbbVie is seizing the opportunity for the biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industries to truly take a ‘Human First’ approach to preventative health, which is vital in developing a more sustainable NHS. This type of thinking, we believe, enables AbbVie to champion innovation which is led by human need, providing care that responds to changing human behaviour and going beyond medicine to create better outcomes.

  1. AbbVie and 2020health report: The Fear of Finding Out – Identifying psychological barriers to symptom presentation and diagnosis in the UK. 2017. Available at www.2020health.org/2020health/Publications/Publications-2017/FOFO.html.


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