"It seems counter-intuitive, but that is what the evidence shows. More medicine does not lead to citizens feeling better about their health - it actually hurts," said study author Hui Zheng, assistant professor of sociology at the Ohio State University.

The study published in the journal Social Science Research found that three dimensions of medical expansion - medical investment, medical professionalisation/specialisation, and an expanded pharmaceutical industry - negatively affect individual subjective health.

"Access to more medicine and medical care does not really improve our subjective health. For example, in the United States, the percentage of Americans reporting very good health decreased from 39 percent to 28 percent from 1982 to 2006," Zheng added.

Zheng conducted what is called a "counter-factual analysis" using the data to see what would have happened if the medical industry had not expanded at all in 28 countries since 1982.

In this analysis, other factors that are generally linked to improved health, such as economic development, were left unchanged. The study included information from OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) health data, world development indicators, the World Values Survey and the European Values Study.

There are several reasons why medical expansion may actually lead people to feel less healthy, Zheng said.For one, more diseases are discovered or "created", which increases the risk of being diagnosed with "new" diseases. Three examples, he said, include the rise in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and autism.

In addition, there is more aggressive screening, which turns up more diseases in people. Over diagnosis can potentially cause harm to perfectly healthy people, he said.


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