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BACKGROUND: Discussing life expectancy helps inform decisions related to preventive medication, screening, and personal care planning. Our aim was to systematically review the literature on patient preferences for discussing life expectancy and to identify predictors for these preferences.

METHODS: We searched PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase, MEDLINE, PsycInfo, and gray literature from inception until 17 February 2021. Two authors screened titles/abstracts and full texts, and extracted data and one author assessed quality. The outcome of interest was the proportion of patients willing to discuss life expectancy. We reported descriptive statistics, performed a narrative synthesis, and explored sub-groups of patients according to patient characteristics.

RESULTS: A total of 41 studies with an accumulated population of 27,570 participants were included, comprising quantitative survey/questionnaire studies (n=27) and qualitative interview studies (n=14). Willingness to discuss life expectancy ranged from 19 to 100% (median 61%, interquartile range (IQR) 50-73) across studies, with the majority (77%) reporting more than half of subjects willing to discuss. There was considerable heterogeneity in willingness to discuss life expectancy, even between studies from patients with similar ages, diseases, and cultural profiles. The highest variability in willingness to discuss was found among patients with cancer (range 19-100%, median 61%, IQR 51-81) and patients aged 50-64 years (range 19-97%, median 61%, IQR 45-87). This made it impossible to determine predictors for willingness to discuss life expectancy.

DISCUSSION: Most patients are willing to discuss life expectancy; however, a substantial proportion is not. Heterogeneity and variability in preferences make it challenging to identify clear predictors of willingness to discuss. Variability in preferences may to some extent be influenced by age, disease, and cultural differences. These findings highlight the individual and complex nature in which patients approach this topic and stress the importance of clinicians considering eliciting patient's individual preferences when initiating discussions about life expectancy.

TidsskriftJournal of General Internal Medicine
Udgave nummer10
Sider (fra-til)3136-3147
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2021

Bibliografisk note

© 2021. Society of General Internal Medicine.


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