NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “A Fragile Nation in Poor Health”, which reveals the majority of Americans fail to follow their doctors’ advice, and uncovers a significant gap in our nation’s healthcare system – lack of patient care between doctor visits. Download it HERE!
The high unemployment rate and lack of jobs is taking its toll on the health of Americans nationwide. A Fragile Nation in Poor Health revealed the nation’s unemployed report being significantly less healthy than working Americans. Three in five (59%) people who are out of work say their overall personal health is lacking, with more than one-quarter of unemployed Americans saying they are struggling with their health. Conversely, nearly 60% of people who are gainfully employed feel good about the state of their personal health.
These findings are validated by Harvard research, which shows that when people lose jobs through no fault of their own, they are twice as likely to report developing a new ailment like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease over the next year and a half, compared to people who are continuously employed.
Stress Leads to Illness
More and more people are competing for fewer and fewer jobs. This dynamic puts an immense amount of stress on the unemployed as they fight to stay afloat while they are out of work. And, with stress comes illness. Unfortunately, without a job, people often can’t afford health insurance or have trouble getting insured. So with money tight and no insurance, people are forced to make sacrifices with their health they wouldn’t normally make.
The findings of A Fragile Nation in Poor Health found people who are out of work are not taking care of themselves. More than four in five unemployed adults (81%) admit they don’t follow treatment plans they’ve been given by their doctor exactly as prescribed. For example, they may not fill their prescriptions or try to take “half-dosages” to conserve money, especially if they don’t have insurance.
Depression is one of the first health problems to strike when unemployment hits, and depression frequently leads to weight gain. When people don’t feel needed, or when they feel they are letting themselves or others down, they become depressed. Often doctors prescribe antidepressant medication to help patients get out of their funk. However, if patients are not filling prescriptions because money is tight, the treatment won’t help. With that in mind, patients need to be forthcoming with their doctors. If they don’t plan to, or can’t afford to, fill a prescription, they need to let their doctors know so an alternate form of treatment can be prescribed.
Exercise, for instance, is free. Duke University research found that adults suffering from depression who participated in an aerobic-exercise plan improved as much as those treated with medication. However, prescribing exercise as a treatment option and having patients actually exercise are two different things. After all, it’s hard for people who are depressed to get motivated to exercise. What’s a doctor to do?
A Fragile Nation in Poor Health revealed that more than two in five (41%) out of work adults, who feel they could better follow their prescribed plans, would be likely to do so if they received encouragement from their doctors between visits to stay on course. And, more than one in four (27%) unemployed adults would follow instructions better if they received reminders from their doctors via email, voicemail or text telling them to do something specific, like take medication or take a walk.
With high numbers of unemployed people across the nation, it’s important for doctors to remember these people frequently feel isolated and alone. A supportive physician who interacts with patients between visits can make a big difference in helping these patients maintain their health so they can get back on their feet.