The price of health: How your wallet affects wellness

SSuchy Editor
  • (flickr, somegeekintn)

    There is no shortage of articles, books, blogs and websites dedicated to instructing us on how to live healthier lives. But even the most dedicated person can face significant obstacles to health that has nothing to do with their commitment.


    Cost of medications


    A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that roughly one in eight working-aged adults in the United States skip medications or delay filling their prescriptions because of the cost of the medications.


    About 10.6 percent of the survey respondents said they delayed filling a prescription to save money. Another 8.5 percent said that they took less medication than their doctors prescribed to make the prescription last longer; often they would cut their pills in half. Finally, 8.2 percent of those surveyed said they would skip doses all together to stretch out their prescriptions.

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    The survey was intended to explore how Americans manage the growing price of prescription drugs. In 2011, even with so many people trying to save money however they could, Americans spend about $45 billion on prescriptions drugs.


    Cost of food


    Eating healthy is often perceived, accurately or not, as an expensive endeavor. A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that for many people, attempts to change their eating habits after being diagnosed with a disease like diabetes sometimes may actually do  more harm than good. It also can be significantly hindered by the cost of good, quality food. 


    The study itself looked at the immediate health and wellness-related purchase decisions made after a diabetes diagnosis, a condition that often requires the patient to revamp his or her  lifestyle.


    The study found that in the immediate aftermath of a diabetes diagnosis most patients do, in fact, try to dramatically reduce the amount of sugar-laden foods and drinks they consume. The  problem is that they also tend to load up on foods that are high in salt and fat to replace the sugary foods, which still puts them at risk for cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.


    According to the researchers, many people also often lack the funds to consistently purchase high-ticket health food and also usually don’t have the kind of educational resources needed to learn how to eat healthy on a budget.


    In neighborhoods and communities known as “food deserts,” fresh fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by or expensive. The problem is especially acute for low-income or even middle-income consumers with families,  who are attempting to feed many mouths on a limited budget.


    Cost of time


    But it’s not only our wallets that impede our health. Time constraints are also often cited as a significant roadblock to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And it’s more complicated than the classic ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ excuse.


    New research from The Ohio State University found that people who try to both exercise and prepare their own meals in the same day – both activities noted for their health benefits – often sacrifice time from one activity to do the other.


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    The findings are based on a nationwide survey of 112,000 American adults, who were asked to detail their activities within the past 24 hours.  Of the 112,000 surveyed, 16 percent of men and 12 percent of women reported that they had exercised during the past day. The average time the entire sample of adults spend exercising (including those who did not report exercising at all) was 19 minutes for men and nine minutes for women.


    Then, the survey respondents were asked how much time they had spent preparing their own meals the previous day. Men spent, on average, 17 minutes preparing food, while women spent about 44 minutes preparing food.


    The research authors noted that both men and women spent less than one hour per day on both healthy activities.


    The study found that a 10-minute increase in food preparation time often meant that about 10 minutes of time was subtracted from exercise, whether it was done consciously or not. So, instead of the two activities complementing one another, they ended up being substituted for each another.  


    The findings were consistent among single people, married adults with no children and parents.


    More education, less waste


    These are all somewhat complicated problems with no easy fix, but education may play a significant role in getting consumers to modify their purchase and time-management choices.


    Researchers writing in the Journal of Marketing, for example, said that most consumers don’t have to choose between healthy eating and a healthy bank account. Educational resources can teach people how to make smart health-conscious food decisions and then plan meals so that the fresh foods they do buy don’t go to waste.




    Live Science, 1 in 8 Skip Meds to Save Money. (April 11, 2013). Retrieved from:


    Medical News Today, Decisions People Make After Being Diagnosed with Conditions Like Diabetes May Lead to Higher Health Risks. (April 15, 2013). Retrieved from:


    Science Daily, Exercise or Make Dinner? Study Finds Adults Trade One Healthy Act for Another. (April 12, 2013). Retrieved from:



Published On: April 18, 2013

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