Overdiagnosis: one concept, three perspectives, and a model

Bjørn Hofmann*, Lynette Reid, Stacy Carter, Wendy Rogers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Defining, estimating, communicating about, and dealing with overdiagnosis is challenging. One reason for this is because overdiagnosis is a complex phenomenon. In this article we try to show that the complexity can be analysed and addressed in terms of three perspectives, i.e., that of the person, the professional, and the population. Individuals are informed about overdiagnosis based on population-based estimates. These estimates depend on professionals’ conceptions and models of disease and diagnostic criteria. These conceptions in turn depend on individuals’ experience of suffering, and on population level outcomes from diagnostics and treatment. As the personal, professional, and populational perspectives are not easy to reconcile, we must address them explicitly and facilitate interaction. Population-based estimates of overdiagnosis must be more directly informed by personal need for information. So must disease definitions and diagnostic criteria. Only then can individuals be appropriately informed about overdiagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-366
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Criteria
  • Diagnosis
  • Disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Overdiagnosis


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