Recession Weighs Heavily on People With Diabetes

The economic recession has hammered people with diabetes, according to a new survey. Many say that their health has been harmed by the crisis, and more expect their health to suffer in the future. What’s more, most don’t expect the government’s health reform bill to improve their situation.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Knowledge Networks conducted the study, which asked more than 1,500 people about their health. People with diabetes weren’t the only group included; those with heart disease and cancer were also surveyed.

The results paint a bleak picture of life today for people with diabetes:

— Nearly two in five (39 percent) say that tough times have made their health worse.

— Nearly one in two (48 percent) say that they expect problems in the future.

— About a third (34 percent) say that costs related to their disease have drained their savings accounts.

For some, the financial picture is even grimmer. More than a quarter (26 percent) have taken on credit card debt to pay for treatment. Nine percent have had to declare bankruptcy because of medical costs.

Jordon Peugh, vice president of healthcare and policy research at Knowledge Networks, sounded the alarm about these financial strains. “While bankruptcy due to costs of healthcare has gotten national attention, it is also of serious concern that substantial proportions of people with these chronic conditions are depleting their savings and going into debt to pay for needed care,” he said.

The troubling facts continue.

— Slightly more than two in five diabetics (42 percent) say that new economic realities have made managing their disease more difficult.

— About a fifth of the group (19 percent) have missed or put off medical appointments because of financial pressures.

— Fifteen percent have skipped recommended lab work.

— Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of diabetics are checking their blood sugars less often.

Finally, the study asked respondents about their impressions of the mammoth healthcare law passed last year. Patients aren’t optimistic; only 14 percent of diabetics think they’ll be better off under the law, and 38 percent think they’ll do worse.

“Although experts suggest the healthcare reform law has provisions that could help people with illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer,” said Robert Blendon, director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program, “many people who have such diseases do not believe it.”

The survey is one of a series talking with those who deal with chronic illness. Researchers collected data from 506 people with diabetes, 508 people with heart disease, and 506 people with cancer.

Patients in the other groups responded similarly to the people with diabetes. Cancer patients, however, were less likely to reduce treatments because of fiscal strain. The margin of error was six percentage points, with a 95 percent confidence level.



Harvard School of Public Health 


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