A recent qualitative study sheds light on how people cope with health and financial challenges, emphasizing the critical role that communication plays in these coping strategies. According to a recent qualitative study that investigated how people cope with health and financial challenges, communication plays an important role in coping strategies.
“This is one of the first studies to look at how people respond to the combination of financial and health uncertainties,” says first author Lynsey Romo, an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University. “It also emphasizes how uncertainty about money and uncertainty about health go hand in hand.” Financial constraints have caused significant health issues, such as the inability to afford prescription medications. Furthermore, health issues resulted in significant expenses, posing serious financial challenges.
“The study also emphasizes that these difficulties exist at all income levels. You can have a good job, good insurance, and do everything ‘right,’ but still struggle due to the nature of the healthcare system in the United States.”
This is one of the first studies to look at how people respond to the combination of financial and health uncertainties. It also emphasizes how uncertainty about money and uncertainty about health go hand in hand. Financial constraints caused significant health issues, such as the inability to afford prescription medications.Lynsey Romo
Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 17 adults in the United States for the study. They were all white, and 14 of them identified as females. Medical debt ranged from less than $10,000 to more than $150,000 among study participants. Salaries ranged from less than $10,000 to more than $150,000 per year. Cancer, cystic fibrosis, and stroke were among the health issues that caused financial difficulties.
The researchers discovered that financial uncertainty related to health had a significant negative impact on the physical and mental health of many study participants. Many interviewees, for example, reported symptoms of emergent depression and other mental health issues related to their health conditions and related financial difficulties.
According to one study participant: “It reaches a point where [financial uncertainty] simply weighs against you. For example, is it worthwhile for me to go through with this procedure? …I’ll never be able to make this much money. I’ll never be able to pay this off.”
The researchers discovered a variety of strategies used by study participants to deal with uncertainty.
“Many of these strategies were centered on communication,” Romo says. “Seeking information and emotional support from your social network is, at its core, a communication activity. Seeking financial assistance or assistance in getting to medical appointments is all about communication. It all comes down to communication when it comes to advocating for yourself or others in the context of medical care. As a result, being able to effectively share information is critical.”
Other strategies for dealing with the uncertainty involved making sacrifices, which demonstrated the impact that uncertainty can have on physical health. Participants in the study, for example, reported buying less food to afford medication; being unable to afford medications at all; taking less medication than a doctor prescribed in order to make it last longer, and being unable to attend health appointments due to cost.
“Qualitative studies, such as this one, are critical,” Romo says. “There are numerous statistics indicating how many people are burdened by medical debt. I recall seeing survey data from early last year showing that more than 30 percent of U.S. workers have medical debt – and that was before the pandemic.
“Qualitative studies provide a more complete picture of what those numbers mean in practice. What is the impact of this combination of financial and health uncertainty on people? And how do they handle it? According to our findings, the effect is significant. The pandemic, as well as the associated costs, may exacerbate the situation. And this is something we must consider.”
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