Whether it's because we're getting healthier or just poorer, Americans are going to the doctor less often, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau's survey, Health Status, Health Insurance, and Medical Services Utilization: 2010, shows that adult working age Americans went to see doctors, nurses and other medical providers an average of 3.9 times during 2010, down from an average of 4.8 times in 2001.
"The decline in the use of medical services was widespread, taking place regardless of health status," said Brett O'Hara, chief of the Census Bureau's Health and Disability Statistics Branch in a press release.
Maybe it's because Americans consider themselves pretty darn healthy. Nearly 66% of those who responded to the Census Bureau's survey said their health was either "excellent" or "very good." Another 24% said their health was "good," while 8% described it as "fair" and 2% as "poor." More than half (59%) of children are in excellent health, compared to 9% of persons 65 or older.
Even among persons describing their health as fair or poor, the average number of annual doctor visits dropped from 12.9 to 11.6 over the 2001 to 2010 period. Doctor visits also fell from 5.3 to 4.2 for those reporting good health and from 3.2 to 2.5 among those who said their health was excellent or very good.
The survey showed that visits to medical providers becomes less likely with age, as 37% of younger adults ages 18 to 24 made no visits to providers during 2010, compared with only 8% of those 65 and older.
Hospital stays have become rare. According to the survey, 92% of the U.S. population did not spend a single night in a hospital during 2010, and only 1% spent eight or more nights.
What About Health Insurance?
The survey confirmed the trend for uninsured persons to use hospital emergency rooms as their health care provider. Among uninsured adults who visited a medical provider or dentist during 2010, 13% visited an emergency room and another 10% used non-emergency hospital services. Twenty percent of the uninsured reported getting free medical services in 2011 and 30% received discounted services.
During 2010, 12% of all uninsured adults received routine check-ups, including 21% of those in poor health.
Among people under 65, those in fair health were more likely (25%) to be uninsured than those in good (24%) or fair (23%) health. Only 20% of those in good health and 16% of those in excellent health were uninsured.