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U.S. Women More Likely Than Men to Put Off Medical Treatment

U.S. Women More Likely Than Men to Put Off Medical Treatment

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 37% of women put off treatment because of cost, vs. 22% of men
  • Nationally, 29% have held off on medical care because of cost
  • Of those who do, 63% say untreated condition is very or somewhat serious

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than a third of American women (37%) report that they or a member of their family put off medical treatment in the past year because of cost, compared with less than a quarter of U.S. men (22%). A gender gap in delaying medical care has appeared consistently in Gallup's annual measurement since 2001.

Putting Off Medical Treatment Due to Cost, Men vs. Women

The differences by gender do not appear to result from differences in the type of healthcare available to men and women. Data from Gallup's Nov. 2-8 Healthcare poll reveal little, if any, difference between men's and women's assessments of the quality, coverage or cost of their healthcare. No differences exist in the kind of insurance they have either -- be it private, government, or none at all -- which, Gallup has found, affects the likelihood of whether an adult will put off seeking medical treatment. Additionally, no gender gap exists in the reported severity of medical conditions among those who have put off receiving treatment because of cost.

The gender gap in putting off care narrows with each increasing age bracket, but even among adults aged 65 and older, women are more likely to report holding off on receiving their own or another family member's medical treatment. The gender gap also narrows with each higher income group; and among households earning $75,000 or more a year, the slightly higher figure for women is not significantly different from that of men.

Gallup's question asks about putting off medical care for the individual or their family members. Women are potentially more likely to report having delayed medical care because they are more likely than men to be caring for children, and thus may have a greater likelihood of answering on behalf of other household members.

To investigate this, Gallup reviewed aggregated data from 2013 to 2017 that shows women are more likely than men to report having put off medical treatment, regardless of whether they have children under 18. Similarly, the gap persists among those who are married and those who are not. These relationships do not rule out a gender difference based on mothers being more aware of their children's medical needs than fathers, but make it less likely as the root cause of the basic differences.

However, the gender gap does not exist between unmarried adults who have minor children -- among both genders, nearly half of men (47%) and women (48%) have someone in their household who has put off medical treatment.

According to The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare research foundation, women require more healthcare services and pay higher out-of-pocket medical costs during their reproductive years than men do. Women's more frequent healthcare needs and higher cost potentially help explain why they end up being more likely to postpone needed medical care.


Nationally, About Three in 10 Put Off Medical Treatment Because of Cost

Among U.S. adults of both genders, nationally, about three in 10 (29%) report that they or a household member put off medical treatment because of cost in the past year. This figure has been stable over the past decade, ranging from 29% to 33% since 2006. The percentage of adults who put off medical treatment had been lower before that, including 22% in 1991 and 19% in 2001.

Percentage of Americans Putting Off Medical Treatment Because of Cost

Most Who Delayed Care Say the Condition Was Serious

Among those who say that they or someone in their household has put off medical treatment in the past year, nearly two in three (63%) describe the condition for which they delayed care as "very" or "somewhat serious." More than a third (35%) describe it as "not very serious" or "not at all serious."

In all but one poll in Gallup's trend, the majority of adults who have put off treatment have described their ailments as "very" or "somewhat serious."

Putting Off Treatment for a Serious vs. Nonserious Condition

Bottom Line

For all that's been written about men avoiding the doctor and their reasons for doing this, it may come as a surprise to many that women appear more likely to put off receiving medical treatment because of cost. While about three in 10 Americans overall have put off receiving care, women consistently report putting it off for themselves or a family member at a higher rate in Gallup's trend. This may be related to the greater costs they incur for care.

But despite their greater reports of putting off medical care, women aren't any less satisfied with aspects of their insurance than men are.

Congress may want to take note of the disparity as debate over U.S. healthcare policy continues -- and as women's health issues have been flashpoints in conversations about access, cost and representation.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 2-8, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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