Americans Are Neglecting Their Health During the Pandemic

By JEFFREY KLUGER | Time | Feb 16, 2021

There’s more than one way to get sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can contract the virus, of course, something more than 27 million Americans have already done. Or you can dodge the virus but nonetheless let the disruption caused by quarantines and social distancing lead you to neglect routine health care. That, a new TIME-Harris poll shows, is just what too many of us are doing.

The top-line numbers from the survey of 1,093 subjects are sobering, with 78% of respondents reporting that they have put off at least some medical services during the pandemic. Of those procedures, dental exams or cleanings were the most frequently missed, with 30% saying that they have passed on regular oral care. Annual physical check-ups were next at 27%, followed by eye exams at 25%.

Some positive findings buried among the negative ones concern telehealth, which is clearly experiencing a boom. Prior to the pandemic, only 29% of people reported receiving some of their health care online; that figure has now jumped to 51%.

But unexpectedly, mental health services—which would seem like the kind of care that most lends itself to telehealth—has been lagging. Only 24% of respondents said they were receiving mental health care during the pandemic, down from 29% before the outbreak. Whether the decline is due to a lack of access to telehealth services or a lack of willingness to take advantage of them is unclear. (Among mental telehealth recipients, 34% said they sought help with relationship issues often caused by pandemic-related stress, 29% said they were seeking help for more generalized anxiety and 28% reported seeking treatment for depression.)

It’s too early to tell if those patients—and doctors—who have picked up the telehealth habit will continue to use it after the pandemic ends. But it’s not too early to hope that a country that already suffers from enough chronic illness will return at least to its pre-pandemic levels of doctor visits when the COVID-19 crisis is at last in the rear-view mirror.

Read the full story at Time | The Coronavirus Brief.