Americans reduce visits to doctor, Census Bureau says

John Egan

Americans are cutting back on their visits to the doctor, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

In 2010, working-age adults made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses or other health care providers, down from 4.8 in 2001, according to the report. Among those who made at least one visit to a health care provider, the average number of visits dropped from 6.4 to 5.4.

Americans reduce visits to doctor, Census Bureau says

“The decline in the use of medical services was widespread, taking place regardless of health status,” Brett O’Hara, chief of the Census Bureau’s Health and Disability Statistics Branch, says in a news release.

Here’s the breakdown for visits to health care providers in 2001 and 2010:

  • Visits fell from an average of 3.2 to 2.5 among those who reported excellent or very good health.
  • Visits fell from an average of 5.3 to 4.2 among those who reported good health.
  • Visits fell from an average of 12.9 to 11.6 among those who reported fair or poor health.

Other highlights of the report:

  • Among uninsured adults who visited a health care provider or dentist during the year, 13 percent went to an emergency room; 20 percent received free medical services; and 30 percent got discounted medical services.
  • In 2010, 21 percent of uninsured adults in poor health received routine checkups, compared with 12 percent of all uninsured adults.
  • Visits to health care providers become more common with age. Thirty-seven percent of adults 18 to 24 didn’t visit a provider at all in 2010, compared with 8 percent of those 65 and older.
  • Adults in the survey were much less likely to visit a dentist at least once in the previous year than a medical provider – 59 percent compared with 73 percent.
  • Hispanics were the least likely racial or ethnic group to visit a health care provider, with 42 percent saying they hadn’t visited a provider in 2010.
  • Women were more likely than men to have visited a health care provider in 2010 (78 percent compared with 67 percent).
  • More than half of the adults surveyed (57 percent) didn’t take prescription drugs at any point during the previous year; 35 percent reported taking them regularly.

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