Economic stress and healthcare costs causing ill health in US

6 January 2009

A survey by AARP, the US membership organisation for the over 50s, has found that the economic recession is affecting people's health and that difficulties in paying for healthcare are adding to the problem.

According to the survey, one in five adults ages 45 and older in the US are suffering health problems due to financial stress. The survey details the healthcare problems and challenges many Americans are facing because of the current economic situation. AARP also says that each week, 13,000 American families declare bankruptcy and half of all home foreclosures are linked to medical bills. This puts 1.5 million Americans at risk of losing their homes.

"Right now people are increasingly concerned about their jobs, retirement savings and simply being able to provide for their families and it's taking a major toll on their health," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director. "It's a harsh irony that worrying about being able to afford healthcare is actually causing health problems."

Key findings from the AARP survey, Impact of Economy on Health Behaviors, include:

  • 20% of people aged 45 and older reported health problems due to financial stress;
  • about one fifth, 22%, have delayed seeing a doctor due to cost
  • 16% had to use retirement savings or other savings to pay for medical care;
  • 21% have cut back on other expenses in order to afford their medical care; and
  • one in six, 16%, are not confident they will be able to afford healthcare in the coming year.

The survey also found that health problems due to financial stress are having a greater affect on individuals aged 45-54 and 55-64, than on those ages 65 and older (22% and 25% vs 13%, respectively).

Mounting healthcare costs are contributing to the financial woes felt by many. Over the last five years health insurance premiums for families have increased by 65%.

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 healthcare costs during difficult financial times is a major cause for concern for many people," added Gallo. "In Illinois, AARP will work side by side with state lawmakers to address the growing health care crisis."

In Illinois, AARP is advocating for healthcare quality measures to establish needed reforms in the insurance industry, helping to ensure people are not denied coverage because of pre-existing health conditions, their age or other factors. AARP will also press for the expansion of health insurance through Medicaid to cover people between the ages of 50-64. At the national level, AARP is working on several measures to ensure health care is affordable and accessible.

The full survey results can be found at:

Bookmark this page

To top