When one thinks about the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the American population, it is often about those who have contracted the virus themselves, or those who have lost their jobs and loved ones because of it. But what about the indirect effects of the virus on the health of Americans suffering from unrelated medical issues? It’s been reported that disruptions and delays in medical care due to the pandemic have led to complications and even life-threatening situations for these individuals. CivicScience felt it important to investigate this matter further and help to provide critically-needed data

As would be expected, Americans’ perceptions of their health worsened during the course of the pandemic. Although these beliefs seem to have since leveled off, the percentage of Americans who feel they are unhealthy currently exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

Americans were also seeing healthcare professionals a lot less during 2020, most likely due to hard lockdowns and fear of COVID-19. The CDC estimates a total of 41% of U.S. adults avoided seeking medical care in the first half of 2020 out of concern over the virus. As of this writing, these statistics seem to have normalized – in fact, CivicScience data show people are reporting more healthcare visits than before the pandemic.

In an attempt to quantify how many Americans to date have been affected and are still suffering from ill health – due to hospitals struggling to treat both COVID-19 patients and those with unrelated issues – CivicScience asked a number of U.S. adults whether the pandemic has impacted their household’s planned medical procedures or doctor’s visits, and the results are telling.

Over a quarter (27%) of Americans have had either their own or someone in their household’s medical procedure or surgery delayed or canceled during the pandemic. 

Among those in need of procedures/surgeries, 32% have since had a delayed procedure completed, while a whopping 25% are still awaiting treatment. 

The trend with scheduling doctor’s visits during the pandemic seems to be very similar, if not worse. Close to half (46%) of American households have experienced a delayed or cancelled doctor’s visit due to the pandemic. And 14% report they are still experiencing issues with this.

These delays and cancellations in the public’s access to healthcare are bound to negatively affect the health of Americans. And, from the data, it seems that it already has. 

Seventeen percent of U.S. adults report that they or someone in their household have experienced health complications due to delays and cancellations in medical procedures and doctor’s visits.

Even more alarming is the 19% that report that they or someone in their household have decided against going to the ER in an emergency situation due to fear of catching COVID-19. That’s almost a fifth of Americans who have risked their lives due to their fear of the presence of the coronavirus in hospitals.

And people with pre-existing health conditions seem to be suffering the most because of delays and cancellations, especially those diagnosed with cancer. 

Twenty-eight percent, 32%, and 36% of Americans with cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and cancer respectively report having experienced adverse health effects due to postponed or canceled medical procedures and healthcare appointments. 

Even more have decided not to visit the ER in emergency situations due to fear of catching the coronavirus (36% percent, 33%, and 38% of Americans suffering from cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and cancer respectively).

Those in lower income brackets also seem to be more affected than those in higher income brackets. While 22% of those that earn $50K or less per annum report experiencing (or having someone in their household experience) adverse health effects due to postponed or cancelled medical care, only 15% of those who earn $150K or more per annum report the same.

All in all, it can clearly be seen that the pandemic has not only negatively affected the health of those who have contracted the virus itself, but also that of the American public in general, especially those with cancer and other pre-existing health conditions. It is hopeful that as time passes and more people are fully vaccinated, these indirect,  adverse effects on the health of the public are minimized, and eventually stopped completely.