In a somewhat surprising study released by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, it was revealed people who have unpaid credit card debt or large medical bills are more likely to put off medical and dental care.
This was found to be the case even when the treatments were needed or urgent.
The study also showed other types of debt, such as student loans and car payments, had no impact on the decision to delay medical or dental care.
In interviewing nearly 1000 people, researchers found debts which are considered “good” debt, such as student loans, did not influence medical decisions.
However, so-called “bad” debt resulted in almost a three-to-one increase in forgoing medical and dental treatment.
“‘Bad’ debt resulted in a three-to-one increase in
forgoing medical and dental treatment.”
Speculation is bad debt comes with more of an emotional burden, causing people to want to get rid of it quickly.
By forgoing treatment – and the assumption of possibly more debt – people are hoping to eliminate their burdensome debt obligation sooner.
The study also showed not only did those who delayed medical care have bad debt more often than those who did not delay it, they also had more of it.
People who delayed medical care reported having an average of $8,890 in debt versus $2,783 for those who proceeded with treatment.
However, there is a silver lining in the findings of the study. The rate of postponement of care seems to be decreasing as the economy improves.
In addition, as pointed out by Dr. David Auerbach, a health economist at the RAND Corporation, the implementation of affordable healthcare in 2014 will probably mean fewer delays for treatment as more individuals are covered by insurance.