Third of adults skipped medical care during early pandemic, study says

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Researchers from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health found that approximately one-third of adults, ages 18-64, decided to either forego or delay medical care during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. These decisions were often tied to limited financial resources, poor health or mental health issues.

The results of the study are reported in “Frequency and Factors Associated with Foregone and Delayed Medical Care due to COVID-19 Among Non-Elderly US Adults from August to December 2020,” which was published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The study was coauthored by Texas A&M’s Elena Andreyeva and Benjamin Ukert, and University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Theodoros V. Giannouchose and John M. Brooks.

The researchers based their findings on data collected from three successive surveys in 2020, which were conducted between Aug. 19-31, Oct. 14-26, and Dec. 9-21.

“This time had the most uncertainty among people,” Ukert said. “Nobody knew what the coronavirus was or how dangerous it was.”

The survey responses were analyzed to determine if participants had foregone or delayed care, such as primary care visits, wellness visits, elective procedures, and more critical treatments such as cancer care. The data showed that 26.9% of respondents had foregone medical care while 35.9% had delayed medical care.

The researchers also looked at the factors that played a role in study participants’ decision to forego or delay care. An individual’s financial situation, which was identified by 60% of participants, was at the top of the list.

“Most of the people who had foregone care were those who had trouble paying usual household expenses during the previous week,” Ukert said. Other factors included quality of health, mental health, insurance coverage, gender, and education.

More at the School of Public Health