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When Times Are Tough, People Cut Down on Doctor Visits

Participants in five countries said reduced income decreased their health care use, survey found.

When Times Are Tough, People Cut Down on  Doctor Visits

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- North Americans and Europeans have become less likely to make routine visits to the doctor due to economic woes, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,100 Americans and more than 1,000 people each in Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain. The participants, aged 18 to 65, were asked about their use of health care services after 2007.

Respondents' use of health care is limited by finances, the study showed, and reductions in personal incomes caused by the economic downturn have reduced their use of health care.

This was especially true for Americans. The researchers found that about 27 percent of Americans had reduced their use of routine medical care since 2007, compared with about 6 percent of Canadians, 8 percent of Britons, 10 percent of Germans and 12 percent of people in France.

Because the United States doesn't have universal health care, it's not surprising that fewer Americans are seeking routine care, the researchers said. They noted, however, that even in nations with more inclusive health care, additional costs for items such as prescription drugs are making people less likely to get routine care.

The study was published online Jan. 20 in the journal Social Science Quarterly.

"The global economic crisis weakened national economies and household finances globally," researcher Dr. Annamaria Lusardi, of George Washington University, said in a journal news release. "These economic conditions can have effects in many areas, including health."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about health care costs.

SOURCE: Social Science Quarterly, news release, Feb. 3, 2014

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