One-third of Americans over the age of 50 skipped a doctors or dentist visit because of Covid

Millions of older Americans skipped routine medical and dental appointments out of fear of Covid, and many have not returned, a survey finds.

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that one-third of people over the age of 50 skipped an appointment because of Covid, with around 25 percent still never returning to make up the missed appointment.

The missed engagements include routine preventative screenings, which could be crucial to finding cancers and other conditions early while they are still easily treatable.

Missed screenings and doctor appointments are a major part of the ancillary costs of Covid – harm done not by the virus itself but as a byproduct of disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Other costs include an increase in opioid deaths and surge in mental health issues suffered by Americans which have been attributed to the virus.

Experts warn that missing these types of screenings and appointments can lead to preventable deaths as diseases and medical issues are not discovered early enough to be easily treated (file photo)

Experts warn that missing these types of screenings and appointments can lead to preventable deaths as diseases and medical issues are not discovered early enough to be easily treated (file photo)

‘Whether they chose to postpone or their provider did, these patients missed opportunities for preventive care and for early detection and effective management of chronic conditions, not to mention operations and procedures to address a pressing health need,’ Dr Jeffrey Kullgren, associate director of the National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted by the University of Michigan, said in a statement.

‘The fact that half or more unvaccinated people have not yet rescheduled those disrupted appointments is especially concerning, because every encounter with a health care provider is also an opportunity to talk about the benefits and safety of COVID vaccination for older adults.’ 

The National Poll on Healthy Aging is a regularly conducted survey by the University of Michigan to gauge the general state of health among America’s older population.

In total, 14 percent of respondents said they had skipped an appointment because of Covid, while another eight percent reported  that their physician had cancelled the appointment.

Among the respondents over the age of 50, 28 percent reported a delayed surgery, test or operation.

Less than half of them have actually made up the test, procedure or operation they previously has scheduled. 

Only 34 percent had attended a rescheduled appointment by the time the survey was conducted. Slightly more, 38 percent, had a future date scheduled.

There is still one out of four of the patients that still have not rescheduled their appointment yet, with 10 percent even saying they never plan to attend the postponed engagement.

Another 30 percent of elderly adults reported missing a primary care visit, though around half of since made up the missed appointment.

Dental care appointments are often overlooked, but many were missed by elderly people as well.

Almost one-in-five of all adults skipped dentist appointments during Covid, including 31 percent of people over 50.

Researchers also found that, across all scenarios, people with lower vaccination rates were more likely to not have rescheduled missed appointments.

Missed screenings caused by Covid have become a worrying trend during the pandemic, and many experts – especially oncologists that specialize with cancer patients – are sounding alarms that the country may suffer a surge of non-Covid negative health outcomes in the future.

One Japanese study from last year, as an example, found that cancer diagnosis were actually decreasing during the pandemic, but cases that were found were more severe.

This indicates that many cancer cases were likely being missed and only were being detected once a person’s condition had deteriorated enough where they had to receive treatment.

For many cancers, the earlier it is detected the more likely the patient is to survive, and if found fast enough it can be taken care of all together with relatively little intervention.

Missing these screenings allow the disease to fester and potentially spread to other parts of the body, heavily increasing the mortality risk.

‘Even as the pandemic continues, it’s important for everyone to remember that COVID-19 is not the only risk to health,’ Dr Preeti Malani, director of the survey, said in a statement.

‘It’s important to make sure we are taking care of all the health needs of older adults, including care that may have been disrupted.’