American adults aren't visiting doctors as much as they used to

October 2, 2012

Working-age American adults aren't visiting with physicians as often as they did a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Working-age American adults aren’t visiting with physicians as often as they did a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2010, U.S. adults each made an average of 3.9 annual visits to medical providers, compared with 4.8 in 2001.

The trend also held among the uninsured, with 24% of the uninsured aged 18 to 64 years reporting one medical provider visit in 2010, compared with 28% a decade earlier.

“The decline in the use of medical services was widespread, taking place regardless of health status,” says Brett O'Hara, chief of the Census Bureau's health and disability statistics branch.

It’s likely that the declining use of medical services can be attributed to the rising cost of care, plus increased co-payments and cost-shifting from insurers to consumers, the Washington Post reported.

Somewhat curiously, the report also found that 66% of Americans say their health is either “excellent” or “very good.” That would seem unlikely, given statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicate that 36% of U.S. adults are obese.

Breaking down the numbers by race and ethnicity, Hispanic citizens were the least likely to have seen a medical provider, with 42% reporting that they hadn’t visited one in the prior year.

Other highlights from the Census Bureau’s report:

Respondents were much less likely to visit a dentist at least once in the last year than a medical provider: 59% compared with 73%.

Women were more likely than men to have visited a medical provider during the year: 78% compared with 67%.

More than half of the population (57%) did not take prescription medication at any point during the previous year, whereas 35% reported taking it regularly.

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