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CB12-185

Contact:  Robert Bernstein
Public Information Office
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  MONDAY, OCT. 1, 2012

Americans Are Visiting the Doctor Less Frequently, Census Bureau Reports

In 2010, working-age adults made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses or other medical providers, down from 4.8 in 2001, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Among those with at least one such visit, the average number of visits also declined, from 6.4 to 5.4 over the period.

These findings are from Health Status, Health Insurance, and Medical Services Utilization: 2010 [PDF], a periodic report that examines the relationship between the use of medical services (such as visits to doctors and nights spent in the hospital), health status, health insurance coverage and other demographic and economic characteristics. The statistics come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

According to the report, most Americans consider themselves to be quite healthy: nearly two in three (66 percent) reported their health as being either “excellent” or “very good.” Another 24 percent said their health was “good,” while 8 percent described it as “fair” and 2 percent as “poor.” Non-Hispanic blacks were more likely to consider their health to be fair or poor (13 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (10 percent) or Hispanics (9 percent).

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

For instance, among working-age adults who reported that their health was either fair or poor, the average number of annual visits dropped from 12.9 to 11.6 over the 2001 to 2010 period. The corresponding numbers fell from 5.3 to 4.2 visits for those reporting good health and from 3.2 to 2.5 among those who said their health was excellent or very good.

Other highlights:

Visits to a medical provider or dentist

  • Respondents were much less likely to visit a dentist at least once in the last year than a medical provider: 59 percent compared with 73 percent.
  • Medical provider visits become more likely with age, as 37 percent of young adults 18 to 24 did not visit a provider at all during the year, compared with 8 percent of those 65 and older.
  • Hispanics were the least likely racial or ethnic group to see a medical provider, as 42 percent never visited one during the year.
  • Women were more likely than men to have visited a medical provider during the year (78 percent compared with 67 percent).

Hospital stays

  • Spending a night in a hospital is a rare event: 92 percent of the population did not spend a night in a hospital during the previous year, and only 1 percent spent eight or more nights. The chances of spending no nights in the hospital ranged from 96 percent for children to 83 percent for people 65 and older.

Prescription medication

  • More than half of the population (57 percent) did not take prescription medication at any point during the previous year, while 35 percent reported taking it regularly.
  • While 80 percent of older adults (those 65 and older) reported regular prescription medication use, the same was true for 13 percent of children.

Health status

  • In general, self-rated health declines with age: more than half of children are in excellent health (59 percent) compared with 9 percent of those 65 or older.
  • While adults with excellent health were less likely to visit a medical provider at least once than those with poor health (68 percent compared with 94 percent), the opposite was true for dental visits. Thirty-five percent of those in excellent health visited the dentist twice during the year, compared with 12 percent in poor health.
  • There is a “U-shaped” relationship between health status and having any type of health insurance coverage. Among all people who reported excellent health, 85 percent were insured, compared with 80 percent with good health and 85 percent whose health was poor.

Uninsured adults

  • Among uninsured adults who visited a medical provider or dentist during the year, 13 percent visited an emergency room and 10 percent visited a hospital (excluding the emergency room), while 20 percent received free services and 30 percent received a discount on services.
  • In 2010, 21 percent of uninsured adults in poor health received routine check-ups, compared with 12 percent of all uninsured adults.
  • People under 65 whose health was poor, fair or good were more likely to be uninsured (23 percent, 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively) than those with very good or excellent health (20 percent and 16 percent, respectively).
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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: February 10, 2014