1 in 3 People Fake an Illness to Achieve Goals

We often see kids faking a stomach ache to get out of school or even to avoid doing their daily homework. New study findings, however, say more than 30% of individuals will sometimes fake being sick to get what they want.

Being sick can come with perks, such as receiving attention, avoiding awkward social gatherings, receiving insurance benefits, and more. These and other factors lead to the fact that sometimes healthy individuals pretend to be unwell.

Since the patient's self-reporting is frequently the primary source of information used in the initial diagnosis of many different illnesses, it is frequently simple to pretend to be unwell, at least temporarily.


What were the study findings?

An international team of experts recently conducted new study findings based on survey data from the Netherlands to ascertain the extent of the problem of people fabricating sickness. Conducting a psychological study on the prevalence of sickness fraud was crucial.

It can result in significant societal expenses, such as faking illness to get an early retirement or filing for disability benefits.

The findings, published in Psychology & Neuroscience, examined data from 975 Dutch people who had participated in an online interview and responded to a series of questions on making up illnesses.

During the interview, participants were asked whether they had ever pretended to be unwell to accomplish a goal, what proportion of Dutch people do so, and whether they knew someone who had done so in the past.

The study's findings challenge the widespread belief among medical experts that fake illnesses occur infrequently. According to survey participants, one in three people pretend to be unwell to accomplish a goal.

In addition, participants revealed that 15.4% of them knew someone in their neighborhood who had faked sickness, 24.9% in their social group, and 22.7% in their family who had in the past. Colleagues at work accounted for the most significant percentage, at 38.9%.

Approximately 14.% of survey participants even acknowledged fabricating sickness symptoms in the past, with 55% fabricating physical symptoms, 7.4% fabricating mental symptoms, and 37.5% faking physical and mental symptoms. Most individuals, around 80.6%, felt bad about faking their sickness. However, 16.5% also found it exciting.


The 14% who claimed to have intentionally faked sickness in the past likely understates the actual incidence rate since some persons would be reluctant to admit to doing something so unethical. The 38.9% of individuals who knew coworkers who had feigned illness may have been overstated since some people may have falsely judged their coworkers' desire to do their duties.

Given that this proportion is comparable to that observed in other studies conducted in other nations, the genuine rate may be similar to the base rate of 31.2% stated by survey participants.

Collectively, these statistics show that pretending to be ill to attain goals is not as uncommon as previously thought by experts. And about one-third of individuals do it. Doctors and psychotherapists should consider these findings when evaluating patients since they indicate a more serious societal issue.


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