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Rising Costs Affect Women's Health

Survey Shows Many Women Put Off Doctor Visits Because of Higher Health Care Costs
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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Dec. 2, 2008 -- Almost half of women surveyed in a national poll said they had failed to seek health care for themselves or their families over the previous year because the cost was too high.

The annual survey of women's attitudes and behaviors regarding health care, released today by the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC), found that women were most likely to put off doctor visits for themselves and least likely to put off doctor visits for their children.

One in four women who said they had skipped needed medical care believed their illnesses lasted longer as a result, and 43% said they worried more about their health.

Rising health costs appeared to have had a major impact on decisions regarding care:

  • 28% of women said they put off going to the doctor during an illness for financial reasons.
  • 19% said they had skipped recommended medical procedures, such as Pap smears or mammograms, because of cost.
  • 18% said they had taken less than the recommended dosage of a prescription drug in order to make it last longer and 18% failed to fill some prescriptions.
  • Only 4% said they had put off taking their children to the doctor because of the cost.

"With the financial crunch a lot of women are putting off or cutting back on health care for themselves and they are paying a high price," NWHRC Executive Director Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, tells WebMD.

"If you are cutting back because money is tight, don't cut back on health care or health insurance. Cut something else, because if you don't take care of yourself you may not be around to take care of your family."

Stress and Weight Gain

The survey, conducted online in late September and early October, included 754 adult women with and without health insurance chosen to reflect the racial and socioeconomic composition of women in the U.S.

Only about one in five surveyed women (19%) believed that their health had gotten better over the past five years, while 39% saw no difference and 42% believed their health had gotten worse.

Roughly half of the women who said their health had declined cited stress or weight gain as the reason for the decline (53% and 51%, respectively).

More than one in three women (38%) cited lack of sleep as a reason for poorer health and 31% said it was because they had stopped exercising.

"Stress continues to rank as a top women's health care concern," Cahill says. "And women who are under a lot of stress may be less likely to exercise and that will certainly affect their health."

Of the women who said their health had gotten better over the last five years, 60% cited better food choices as a reason, 58% said they had started to exercise regularly, 56% said they had lost weight, and 30% said they had reduced the stress in their lives.

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