Census: Americans make fewer trips to the doctor's office

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Census: Americans make fewer trips to the doctor's office

Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 02, 2012
Americans visit the doctor about one fewer time, on average, every year, when compared with nearly a decade ago, according to a new report on the country's health care utilization trends from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, Health Status, Health Insurance, and Medical Services Utilization: 2010, was released Monday.

Using data from a longitudinal survey of the U.S. civilian population, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the bureau said working-age U.S. adults made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses or other health care providers in 2010, down from 4.8 in 2001.

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The drop in services use occurred even among those with bad health. Adults who reported having "poor" or "fair" health had an average of 11.6 visits per year, down from 12.9 in 2001.

Most Americans were, however, rather healthy. About 65.6 percent of Americans said they had excellent or very good health, and a further 24.1 percent said their health was just good. (Only 10 percent reported being in poor or fair condition.) Health status, unsurprisingly, declined sharply with age; and blacks reported worse health, on average, than whites and Hispanics.

Spending the night in the hospital was rare. Nine out of 10 Americans, it seems, never spent a night in the hospital in 2010, according to the Census. In fact, about a quarter of the population said they had no medical provider visits at all in 2010.

Only 28.4 percent of the respondents said they visited the dentist twice a year - and remember, people are generally recommended to get a cleaning every six months. More than 40 percent of the respondents never went to the dentist at all in 2010, according to the Census. The poor were less likely to see a dentist: 57.4 percent of those in poverty never saw a dentist, compared with 26.1 percent of those in the highest income group, which was 400 percent of the federal poverty threshold.

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