Americans making fewer visits to doctor

Blythe Bernhard / St. Louis Post-Dispatch /

Americans aren’t going to the doctor as often, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting healthier.

The average adult makes about four visits a year to a doctor, nurse or other medical provider, down from five visits in 2001, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“On the face of it you’d say we’re going in the right direction,” said Thomas McAuliffe, health policy analyst with the Missouri Foundation for Health. “Then you start thinking of the economy.”

People who are uninsured generally avoid medical care as long as possible. Just 12 percent of uninsured Americans received routine check-ups in 2010, according to the report.

Some findings confirm commonly held beliefs — women are more likely than men to visit the doctor and the number of medical visits and hospital stays increases with age.

The report also uncovered lesser-known statistics. Hispanics make the fewest trips to the doctor of any ethnic group. And more than half of the population did not take any prescription drugs in the last year.

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