Survey: Economy taking health toll

12/30/2008

CHICAGO One in five middle-aged and older adults are suffering health problems due to the financial stress stemming from the economic crisis, a new survey from AARP has found.

The organization reported today that the worrisome state of the economy has taken a measurable toll on the health of fully 20% of adults ages 45 and older. “Right now people are increasingly concerned about their jobs, retirement savings and simply being able to provide for their families,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois senior state director. “It's taking a major toll on their health.

“It's a harsh irony that worrying about being able to afford health care is actually causing health problems,” Gallo added.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • One of five respondents 45 and older reported health problems due to financial stress.

  • Roughly one fifth, or 22% of survey respondents, said they have delayed seeing a doctor due to cost.

  • Sixteen percent had to use retirement savings or other savings to pay for medical care.

  • More than one in five have cut back on other expenses in order to afford their medical care.

  • One in six, 16%, are not confident they will be able to afford health care in the coming year.

The survey also found that health problems due to financial stress are having a greater effect on individuals 45 to 54 and 55 to 64, than on those ages 65 and older.

“Over the last five years health-insurance premiums for families have increased by 65%,” AARP reported. “The average cost of health insurance for an American family now exceeds the yearly income of a minimum wage worker.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, insurance premiums have increased 119% from 1999 to 2008, while workers' earnings have risen just 29%.

“Clearly rising health care costs during difficult financial times [are] a major cause for concern for many people,” Gallo noted.

AARP said it would press for the expansion of health insurance through Medicaid to cover people between the ages of 50 to 64, and continue pushing for affordable and accessible health care at the national level. The full survey can be found here.  

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