Research finds gender disparities in cost-related medical non-adherence

Pile of multicolored pills

Due to financial reasons, women are less likely than men to adhere to medical follow-up visits, medications and diagnostics, according to new research from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Analyzing a national sample of more than 26,000 men and women in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, researchers found 26.2 percent of women and 19.8 percent of men reported cost-related non-adherence to medical care.

"This shows the consequences of financial barriers that women face in medical care are much greater than men, possibly due to several factors including gender pay gap, disproportional care burden and differential social roles," said the study's primary author James Zhang, PhD, MS, director of Medicare Innovation Analysis at the University of Chicago's Department of Medicine. "Given that existing protections for women's health in the Affordable Care Act are in peril, it is important to note the current state and the potential consequences of removing such protections."

Researchers also found that 12 percent of women and 8 percent of men found it very difficult to cover health expenses and all of their medical bills.

"Women also had higher rates of having one or more financially dependent children, which adds to their economic pressure," said Zhang. "All those factors contributed to the worsening of non-adherence to medical care among women."

The study, titled "The differential rates in cost-related non-adherence to medical care by gender in the U.S. adult population," was published May 19 in the Journal of Medical Economics. Co-authors include James Crowe and David Meltzer, both of the University of Chicago.