Health anxiety & medical care avoidance

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, however, when the avoidance results in a lack of preventative and medical care, individuals are more likely to have inadequate outcomes when it comes to their health. 

A study found that one-third of adults had skipped medical visits that had been deemed necessary. When evaluating the data, they could not pin-point avoidance behavior to one geographical area, socioeconomic status, or demographic — clearly, this is a global issue.

Top three reasons people avoid seeking medical care:

  1. “Low perceived need,” people who believe that their condition or ailment does not necessitate treatment. Most commonly, individuals believed that their condition would get better with time. Another reason was that individuals believed that they did not need routine care because they were not sick at the time. However, routine care is very important in preventing and detecting medical problems. For example, routine care may consist of vaccines, which are used to prevent diseases and illness, check-ups, which allow your provider to evaluate your vital signs, and make any adjustments or recommendations in order to keep you healthy. As we age, we are more prone to develop chronic diseases, cancer, or diabetes, so it is vital to keep up with routine care as we age in order to maintain our health. Unsure of what your routine care should look like? Head over here to view recommendations by age group.
  1. Medical care barriers,” another reason individuals reported not seeking care was because of inconvenient business hours of providers, limiting those who cannot miss work, or have other conflicting responsibilities. Another important factor was the high cost of health care. In the U.S, research shows that about 36% percent of individuals under the age of 45 are uninsured, lack of health insurance is one of the main obstacles for individuals seeking care. The financial burden of co-pays are also a huge barrier for individuals seeking care, in a recent survey of 1,000 people, 91% reported that their deductibles were “somewhat difficult” and 22% reported that theirs were “impossible” to meet.  

How does this affect care? Well, 64% of those surveyed reported that they had avoided medical care because of cost. A study published in the Journal of Health Care Finance sought to evaluate if payment plans had a positive outcome in terms of avoidance behavior. What they found was that patients who utilized payment plans were less likely to avoid medical care and were less likely to be associated with the adverse results of medical debt. Feeling the stress of medical debt? Ask your health care provider about a payment plan for your medical bills to break payments up over time.

  1. “Negative evaluation,” was attributed as the third most common reason why individuals did not seek care. One unfavorable visit to a medical provider can be damaging to the patient/provider relationship. Most commonly, this is attributed to communication issues, the bedside-manor, or the approach of the provider when interacting with the patient. It is important that patients feel that they are being heard during their appointments and have time to ask questions that are important to them. When patients feel as if they are not being heard or understood, they are less likely to trust the advice, recommendations, or treatment that are provided to them.

COVID-19 and Health Care Anxiety

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, and in 2020, we were introduced to another reason: COVID-19. In a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of adults by June in the United States had avoided care due to concerns about COVID-19. It was found that individuals with disabilities and those with two or more underlying conditions were more commonly found to avoid care due to COVID-19. 

The CDC has provided guidance for individuals who need to get care for other conditions, recommending an open dialogue with your provider about your concerns, and having at least a 2-week supply of any necessary medications on hand. 

For more information and guidance, please visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.