When your car breaks down, you don’t let it sit in your driveway for six months before seeing a mechanic. When someone hacks into your bank account and racks up $1,000 in charges, you don’t delay in calling the number on the back of your debit card. Why, then, do so many millions of Americans avoid seeing the doctor when they aren’t well?
Who is Avoiding the Doctor? (And Why?)
In short, we’re all avoiding the doctor. But there’s one group that seems to avoid the doctor more than other: millennials.
According to one survey, 93 percent of them don’t schedule medical appointments. As a result, 51 percent of millennials report visiting a doctor less than once a year. More than 1 in 3 millennials say they can’t even remember how long it’s been since their last doctor’s visit.
And while millennials, as an age group, are definitely the most reticent to schedule doctor’s visits, they’ve learned their behavior elsewhere. That same survey shows that, across all ages, 82 percent of women and 78 percent of men put off preventative care. In fact, roughly two-thirds of women would prefer to “wait it out” than schedule a doctor’s appointment at the onset of symptoms.
But why is this? In other words, why are millennials (and really everyone) avoiding the doctor?
Practically speaking, cost is an issue. And according to one research study of more than 2,000 adults, 54 percent of Americans say they’ve delayed necessary care within the past year because of the cost. Another 23 percent have delayed care for more than a year for this same reason. Specifically, Americans tend to avoid dental work, eye care, and physicals/annual exams.
But there are also less tangible elements in play. Psychologically, many Americans prefer an ignorance-is-bliss approach. They fear that, by going to the doctor, they’ll learn they have some terminal illness or grave condition. By avoiding doctors, they don’t have to confront these possibilities.
Then there’s the inconvenience factor. You have to schedule an appointment, ask time off from work, drive to the doctor’s office, sit in the waiting room, fill out paperwork, be seen by a nurse, and then finally be seen by the doctor. And after all of that, you have to commute back to work – possibly making a stop at the pharmacy along the way. Millennials – who can be busy and impatient – don’t find this process practical.
How to be Proactive With You Healthcare
The data and anecdotal evidence clearly show that people are putting off healthcare. As discussed, it largely comes down to cost, fear, and inconvenience. Thus, in order to be more proactive with your healthcare, you need to come up with a plan that combats each of these stumbling blocks. Here are a few suggestions:
- Consider telehealth. Big advances have been made in telemedicine/telehealth. And while there will always be certain situations where you need to be seen in-person, sometimes scheduling an e-visit is a more comfortable and convenient option. Common conditions that can be diagnosed online include flu, cough, cold, cold sores, sinus pain, and red eye.
- Get finances in order. Entire books have been written about how to make healthcare more cost-effective for the masses – so we won’t get into that here. For now, the best thing you can do is get your finances in order. By developing an emergency fund with some cash savings, you won’t feel like you have to avoid the doctor because you can’t afford to pay.
- Take care of yourself. Ironically, if you’re taking care of your health – exercising, eating healthy, keeping stress low – you’ll be much more likely to visit your doctor. Why? It’s pretty simple: You’re less fearful that the doctor will make some shocking discovery.
- Schedule appointments far out. Do yourself a favor and schedule checkups as far out in advance as you can and paste them into your calendar. You’ll be much more likely to schedule an appointment if you know you don’t have to actually go for another three or six months. And then in order to cancel, you’ll actually have to call. (This added friction may convince you to follow through.)
We’re all different. We all face unique challenges, fears, and circumstances. However, we’re more alike than we think. By implementing these suggestions, you’ll find it easier to get the healthcare you need.