Rising Costs Affect Women's Health

Survey Shows Many Women Put Off Doctor Visits Because of Higher Health Care Costs

From the WebMD Archives

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.

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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.

Women's Views on Aging

This year's survey also focused on women's attitudes toward aging, with some surprisingly positive findings.

Four out of five women said they were emotionally prepared to grow older and a slightly lower number felt they had adequate knowledge of issues related to aging.

Tina Turner topped the list of celebrities over 50 who were considered most inspiring in terms of overall health. Two out of three women who chose her said it was because she has remained active and physically fit as she has aged and 58% cited her positive attitude toward aging.

When asked what was most important to them as they got older:

  • 30% of the women cited staying in good health without serious physical problems
  • 21% cited remaining independent
  • 19% cited maintaining good mental health
  • 2% said it was most important to maintain their physical appearance

Judy Norsigian, executive director of the Boston-based women's health advocacy group Our Bodies Ourselves, says many women develop a healthier perspective on their looks as they age.

"At a certain point you realize that you can't do everything," she tells WebMD. "You can either spend hours a day getting your body to look a certain way or you can spend that time doing something you enjoy more like being with friends."

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She says successful aging involves not just doing all you can to maintain good health, but accepting the inevitable physical changes that accompany middle age.

"The attitude that the body has to be a perfectly functioning machine has gotten a lot of traction in this society and that is unfortunate," she says.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 01, 2008

Sources

SOURCES:

National Women's Health Resource Center 2008 survey.

Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director, National Women's Health Resource Center.

Judy Norsigian, executive director, Our Bodies Ourselves.

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