Millions of Americans With Chronic Ills Put Off Health Care

  • Those who have put off care suffer the consequences: 45 percent are "always" or "frequently" in pain (vs. 28 percent of those who sought prompt care), while 49 percent were always or frequently tired (vs. 28 percent of their counterparts) and 40 percent were stressed (vs. 17 percent of those getting care).
  • In general, about one-third of respondents were "always" or "frequently" in physical pain. Those with multiple chronic conditions were more likely to report being in pain.
  • Half felt depressed and angry as a result of their health conditions.
  • Thirteen percent said health care providers "rarely" refer them to supportive services, while 32 percent said providers "never" do so. Among individuals aged 75 and older, 56 percent said their providers "rarely" or "never" refer them to support services.
  • Being chronically ill also left many Americans feeling isolated: 39 percent reported not getting the help and support they need to cope; many have had to cut back on social activities and also experience stress in their family relationships.
  • One-quarter of those with jobs reported having had to miss work due to health concerns.
  • "Many Americans with chronic conditions are struggling, especially those delaying care, Latinos, those with low income. We know this is more difficult for them, and our non-system of care probably is the least responsive to these people," said Nancy Whitelaw, senior vice president of the National Council on Aging and director of the Center for Healthy Aging. "They are in pain, stressed, a lot of things are going on in their life that makes it difficult to cope. They look to healthcare providers but don't feel they are getting the support they need. They lack confidence about their ability to do these things on their own. They want help in tailoring [interventions] to their own life. They would like to get this help from providers, from their community, from online resources."

    More information

    Visit the U.S. National Council on Aging for more about this poll.

    SOURCES: March 18, 2009, teleconference with James P. Firman, Ed.D. president and CEO, National Council on Aging (NCOA); Veenu Aulakh, California HealthCare Foundation; Nancy Whitelaw, Ph.D., director, Center for Healthy Aging, and senior vice president, NCOA; Delores Palmer, R.N., Harvest Health Program, and director, Center in the Park; Carol Pryor, policy director, Access Project, Boston; March 18, 2009, poll, National Council on Aging

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