No Health Insurance, Higher Death Risk

Study: 45,000 U.S. Deaths Per Year May Be Linked to Lack of Health Insurance

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 17, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 17, 2009 -- In a new study, researchers estimate that 45,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are associated with not having health insurance.

That estimate appears in the advance online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Data came from about 9,000 people aged 17 to 64 who took part in a government health survey between 1988 and 1994. They were followed through 2000.

During those years, about 3% of the participants died. People without any health insurance were 40% more likely than people with health insurance to die during the years studied, regardless of factors such as age, gender, race, income, education, health status, BMI (body mass index), exercise, smoking, and alcohol use.

The researchers then applied that finding to U.S. census data. "We calculated approximately 44,789 deaths among working-age Americans in 2005 associated with the lack of insurance," write the researchers, who included Andrew Wilper, MD, MPH.

Wilper worked on the study while at the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is associated with the Harvard Medical School. Wilper now works at the University of Washington.

Wilper's team can't rule out other factors that could have affected the results. But they note that people without health insurance often don't get preventive care or have a steady source for medical care, which could be risky.

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Wilper, A. American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 17, 2009; advance online edition.

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