Story at a glance
- The United States health care system is plagued with issues ranging from staffing shortages to high costs of care.
- New research from the Commonwealth Fund shows American men’s health is suffering due in large part to care barriers.
- Compared with 11 other higher income countries, U.S. men were more likely to die premature deaths and have serious health conditions.
Lack of health insurance and poor access to health care are pervasive problems in the United States, setting it apart from other developed nations.
Now, new research from The Commonwealth Fund shows that among 11 high-income nations, American men are more likely to die from avoidable causes and have serious health conditions, while poor outcomes are magnified in those with income insecurity due in large part to these barriers.
In general, men tend to visit the doctor less often than women, researchers noted, adding, “While behavioral and cultural norms may have a lot to do with the care-seeking habits of American men, the fact remains that the United States is the only high-income country that does not ensure all its residents have access to affordable health care.”
Approximately 16 million U.S. men currently do not have health insurance.
Data for the current analysis were gleaned from the Fund’s 2020 International Health Policy Survey and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Findings also revealed American men have some of the highest rates of chronic conditions and mental health needs, but have the lowest prostate cancer death-rate compared with other nations.
On average, 337 per 100,000 American men die avoidable deaths — or deaths before age 75 that can be treated or prevented — compared with 233 per 100,000 in the United Kingdom and just 156 per 100,000 in Switzerland.
In addition to men in Sweden and Canada, U.S. men are more likely to visit the emergency department for non-urgent conditions, which can contribute to increased health care spending and unnecessary care.
Men in both the United States and Switzerland tend to incur medical bills at the highest rates due to routine skipping of needed care.
Researchers also assessed the impact of financial insecurity on American men’s health. They found that, “In the U.S., men with lower income or frequent financial stress are less likely to get preventive care, more likely to have problems affording their care, and more likely to have physical and mental health conditions.”
Adults with lower income tend to have higher rates of smoking and alcohol use which can contribute to adverse health outcomes like diabetes and obesity. Overall, lower income individuals were four times more likely to be in fair or poor health than their wealthier counterparts. Lower income and stress levels were also tied to increased mental health care needs.
Furthermore, only 37 percent of U.S. men had a favorable view of the country’s health care system compared with 88 percent of those in Switzerland. However, having a higher income was associated with a more favorable view of the system among U.S. men, despite wealthier individuals paying more out-of-pocket for care than lower income individuals. This may be due to higher health care utilization rates within this cohort.
Thirty-seven percent of U.S. men also reported skipping care due to cost concerns and 45 percent reported having at least one medical bill challenge.
“On nearly every health care measure we studied, men in the U.S. with income insecurity fared the worst,” researchers concluded.
“For their part, American men must become more proactive about their health, and that should include establishing regular connections with a health care provider.”