Stressed-out women may delay getting preventive care
Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356
The stress of juggling work and family responsibilities may lead some women to delay or skip regular preventive care, like routine physicals or screening tests, a new study finds. Just over 13 percent of 9,166 women aged 18 to 49 reported experiencing signs of psychological distress, including feeling nervous, hopeless, restless, fidgety, or depressed. These distressed women were more likely to delay getting health care than women who did not experience distress symptoms (27 percent versus 22 percent). Delaying health care was a common practice for all women who lacked regular sources for care. However, more than 59 percent of distressed women without regular care sources delayed care compared with 45 percent of nondistressed women who did not have usual care sources.
The authors suggest that an unhealthy cycle develops when distressed women neglect their health care, because providers are not able to detect and treat stress symptoms. To prevent long-term health consequences, clinicians should screen women for distress in both urgent and routine care settings and follow up with them to make sure they get preventive care services, the authors suggest. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00063).
See "Psychological distress as a barrier to preventive healthcare among U.S. women," by Whitney P. Witt, Ph.D., M.P.H., Robert Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Fortuna, M.D., M.P.H., and others in the September 2009 Journal of Primary Prevention 30(5), pp. 531-547.