The Impact of COVID-19 on Everyday Health in America

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Everyday Health in America

COVID-19.Healthy Living
Ilima Loomis
By Ilima Loomis
Jun 01, 2020
Illustration of COVID-19 on top of the United States

As of the end of May, the employment rate had risen to over 40 million Americans with the expectancy for that number to rise due to the continued pandemic.

With COVID-19 causing fundamental changes in every aspect of life in the U.S. and around the world, RxSaver™ has partnered with leading research firm Kelton Global to share new insights into how the pandemic is affecting Americans’ attitudes and access to health care.

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How COVID-19 is Disrupting Everyday Health Care

The RxSaver-Kelton survey found that the pandemic is disrupting health care access, with more than one-third of Americans (34%) saying they have missed a medical appointment due to COVID-19. These interruptions reflect existing disparities in access to health care, with Hispanic and White Americans more likely to have missed an appointment (36%) than African Americans (20%).1

The pandemic is also causing Americans to avoid going to the doctor, with more than four out of five Americans saying that they fear visiting a medical facility puts them at risk of catching COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, people who were immunocompromised or had an underlying health condition like kidney disease, COPD, asthma, or heart disease were more likely to be concerned.2

illustration showing a graph of the increase in the percentage of Americans missing medical appointments during COVID-19 shelter in place.

Changes in Prescription Fills During COVID-19

Immediately prior to the shelter in place orders across America, RxSaver saw a marked increase in fills for prescription medications, particularly albuterol sulfate, amlodipine besylate, pantoprazole, azithromycin, amoxicillin and vitamin D. Fills for 90-day medication supplies also increased as Americans prepared to stay home.

At the height of nationwide mandated shelter in place orders in late March, RxSaver saw prescription fill rates for chronic condition medications fall about 10% compared to previous weeks. However, starting the first week of April prescription fills for the same common chronic condition medications bounced back, increasing 9.2%. This was an indication that Americans were starting to return to a normal cadence for fills of everyday medications.

illustration of increase in Rx fill rates during the pandemic shelter in place.

Access to prescription medications has also been a challenge during this time, with more than one in 10 people (12%) saying they have missed taking a prescription as a result of COVID-19. The most common reason people gave for missing a dose was the fear that if they ran out of the medication they would not be able to get a refill. Younger people are more than twice as likely as Baby Boomers to miss taking medication (15% vs 6%), and 20% of parents say they’ve missed a medication due to coronavirus, vs 8% of people without children.

illustration showing that parents are missing more medication than non-parents during the COVID-19 shelter in place.

How COVID-19 Impacted Cold & Flu Season Across America

Early data indicate that efforts to combat coronavirus, including social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and wearing masks, may have also worked to suppress the flu outbreak.3 Flu season typically starts in September, increasing during the holiday season and peaking in February before cases taper off in late spring.

Prescription fills for the 2019-2020 flu season initially followed the typical pattern; RxSaver saw a 52% increase in cold/cough and flu-related medications from November to December, with prescription volume peaking in late January. As social distancing measures swept the country in March, fills for cold/cough and flu-related medications began to decline. Script volume decreased 41% from March to April, an early and steep decline.

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How COVID-19 is Affecting Mental Health Across America

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 is taking a toll on Americans’ mental health and wellbeing. In the RxSaver-Kelton survey, more than half of people (54%) said COVID-19 has had a negative effect on their mental health, with more women (60%) than men (48%) saying they are affected. Geography plays a role; Americans in the Northeast are twice as likely as those in the South to say that COVID-19 has made their mental health much worse (16% vs 8%).

RxSaver saw a 25% increase in prescription fills for anxiety and antidepressant medications from February to March, with volumes peaking during the week of March 15, 2020.

Even as COVID-19 adds major pressures to their lives, Americans are actively seeking help as the Kelton survey reported, with 76% saying they are taking steps to relieve stress and manage their mental health during the pandemic. Many people (20%) are taking prescription medications to help manage their mental health during COVID-19, with older generations (23%) more likely than Millennials or Gen-Z (14%) to do so. More than 1 in 10 people (12%) are now engaging in virtual appointments with physicians to address mental health concerns.1

Profound Changes for Health

From missed medical appointments and medications, to the rise in telemedicine, COVID-19 has caused fundamental changes to everyday health in America. And with experts warning the pandemic could continue into 2021, it’s clear these shifts may be long-lasting.

References:

  1. Kelton. The RetailMeNot COVID-19 RxSaver 2020 Survey was conducted between April 1st, 2020 and April 3rd, 2020 among 1,004 nationally representative Americans.
  2. Saad, Lydia. “Americans Worry Doctor Visits Raise COVID-19 Risk.” Gallup, 6 Apr. 2020, https://news.gallup.com/poll/307640/americans-worry-doctor-visits-raise-covid-risk.aspx.
  3. Guarascio, Francesco. “Remember the Flu? Coronavirus Sent It into Hiding, but at a Cost.” Reuters, 20 Apr. 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-flu/remember-the-flu-coronavirus-sent-it-into-hiding-but-at-a-cost-idUSKBN2221PG
Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis is a freelance writer and journalist who specializes in writing about health care, HR, science, travel, and Hawaii. You can find more of her work at ilimaloomis.com. Ilima is a regular contributor to the RxSaver blog.

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