Recession Is Bad for Health
Americans Are Taking Grave Chances With Their Health Because of Recession and Money Fears
WebMD News Archive
May 21, 2009 -- Americans are skipping doctor’s appointments and the gym, scrimping on drugs, delaying preventive care, and eating more unhealthy foods because of growing fears about the recession, according to two national surveys and health experts.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says a new survey of its members suggests the recession and fears of money problems are having negative and potentially serious effects on public health.
And the American Heart Association says in another survey that it is concerned that people are cutting back on exercise and eating more low-cost fattening foods to save money, which could worsen the nation’s obesity problem.
Almost 90% of 600 family doctors surveyed said their patients have expressed concerns about paying their bills, and 87% said more patients were showing up with stress symptoms than before the recession.
The American Heart Association surveyed 1,000 people in March. Its survey showed that 57% reported the economy had affected their ability to take care of their health. The AHA survey also found that:
- 32% had delayed preventive care, skipped doctor’s appointments, or stopped taking medication to save money.
- 25% with gym memberships had canceled them in the past six months.
- 42% percent planned to buy fewer fruits and vegetables.
“We’ve made dramatic gains in recent years in our fight against heart disease and stroke, but trends like these threaten to reverse these gains,” says Timothy Gardner, MD, president of the AHA. “We need to remind people that even in hard times, their health is important.”
Health Care and the Recession: Doctor Visits Down
In the AAFP’s survey of member doctors, 60% reported seeing more problems caused by patients skipping preventive care. Also:
- 66% said they were reducing fees to cut patient costs or making other arrangements to help people pay. Others said they’d increased charity care or moved patients to cheaper, generic drugs.
- 54% reported seeing fewer total patients since January 2008, which is about when the recession began.
- 73% reported an increase in uninsured patients.
- 64% reported a drop in patients with employer-sponsored health insurance.
AAFP President Ted Epperly, MD, tells WebMD that angst has become pervasive “and so many people are trying to save,” which can be dangerous. “We’ve seen bad outcomes. I have personal knowledge of a 45-year-old male with underlying heart disease that he knew about [who] was also diabetic. Because he lost his health insurance when he lost his job, he stopped taking his diabetes medicine, it got out of control, he had a [heart attack] and he died.
“We know of another gentleman with bipolar disease who stopped taking his antipsychotic to save money. He became manic, lost his job, his house, and then his family.”