You may want to think twice before your next visit to the doctor’s office. According to Dr. Barbara Starfield’s now-famous study (in JAMA), iatrogenic deaths (those resulting from treatment by physicians or surgeons) are the third leading cause of mortality in the United States, resulting in the loss of 225,000 lives per year. Of that total, nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections kill 80,000, physician errors claim 27,000, and unnecessary surgery results in 12,000 deaths.
But iatrogenic errors aren’t the only reason people should avoid hospitals, says physician and health care administrator Archelle Georgiou. She tells Big Think that relying on doctors may actually shorten your lifespan. Georgiou bases this idea on her studies of the earth’s so-called “blue zones,” isolated communities around the world whose inhabitants live longer and healthier lives than the greater populace.
In the Greek blue zone, the island of Ikaria, inhabitants are more than 4 times more likely to live to age 90 than Americans are—yet there is virtually no health care infrastructure. Georgiou tells us: “There are no hospitals or major surgery capabilities…. People needing emergency care are transported by helicopter to Samos (a neighboring island), and all elective surgery is done in Athens.”