Burdens of medical debt differ by gender

May 1, 2011

Because research shows that women are more likely than men to forgo, delay and ration medical care because of personal debt incurred from healthcare costs and expenses, investigators set out to determine whether financial hardships associated with medical debt also differ by gender.

Because research shows that women are more likely than men to forgo, delay, and ration medical care because of personal debt incurred from healthcare costs and expenses (ie, medical debt), investigators set out to determine whether financial hardships associated with medical debt also differ by gender.

Data from the 2003 nationally representative Community Tracking Study Household Survey showed that 94% of almost 4,750 respondents reported having financial hardships associated with medical debt, and some of these hardships differed between men and women: Men were more likely to use savings for medical debt, whereas women were more likely to borrow money and have difficulties paying for necessities because of medical debt. Men and women did not differ significantly when it came to being contacted by a collection agency, putting off major purchases, or in overall frequency of financial consequences of medical debt.

In examining variables other than gender, investigators found that individuals with low incomes were more likely than those with high earnings to report being contacted by a collection agency, to borrow money, and to have problems paying for necessities. Low-income individuals also were less likely to use savings for medical debt.

Wiltshire JC, Dark T, Brown RL, et al. Gender differences in financial hardships of medical debt. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2011;22(1):371-388.