Quick Study: More Americans Skipping Doctor Visits

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The study: In a 10-year span fewer Americans went to the doctor, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau says. In 2001 adults of working age went to see a doctor, nurse or other health provider an average 4.8 times, but in 2010 that fell to 3.9 visits.

The report on Americans’ health status, health insurance and use of medical services also found that in that decade, the amount of doctor visits among people who were in fair or poor health actually decreased, going from an average 12.9 times a year in 2001 to 11.6 visits in 2010. Visits among people who were uninsured dropped as well, from 28.4 percent to 24.1 percent.

Poverty had a direct impact on healthcare: In 2010 18.5 percent of higher income people didn’t see a health care provider, compared to more than a third of poor people.

In terms of health status, about a third of all people in 2010 reported they were in excellent health, and two-thirds said they were in very good health.

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What we already know: Poverty has been linked with worse health in number of studies that found higher rates of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease among poor people. Having less access to healthcare is one explanation, along with bad living conditions and not knowing enough about health treatment and disease prevention.

What this means for you:  “The decline in the use of medical services was widespread, taking place regardless of health status,” Brett O'Hara, chief of the Census Bureau's Health and Disability Statistics Branch said in a news release.

Delaying or forgoing medical care can affect more than the person who doesn’t see a doctor—there can be public health implications as well in terms of the spread of disease. If more people do take advantage of healthcare through the ACA that could mean better overall health for the population and lower healthcare costs.

Do you think the Affordable Care Act will significantly affect public health in the U.S.? Let us know in the comments.

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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com

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