Youths did not seek healthcare both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the lives of people of all age groups including young adults. Studies show that some adolescents and young adults do not access healthcare when needed and barriers to healthcare access may differ based on demographics. Pandemic-related lockdowns and the burden on the healthcare system have further reduced healthcare access to young adults.

Study: Impact of COVID-19 on healthcare access for Australian adolescents and young adults. Image Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

About the study

A team of researchers from Australia recently studied the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare access for young adults compared to pre-COVID-19 times. This work, published on the medRxiv* pre-print server, is a statistical study involving 1,110 individuals.

Data was collected from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), which is an Australian cohort study that collected information from youngsters (10 years or older) and their families. The study involved two types of cohorts – the first one comprised children aged 1 or less and the second (older) cohort had children aged 4-5. Data were collected for both cohorts once every two years after the children reach 10 years of age; the first wave of data collection began in 2004 through a multi-stage sampling approach.

In the current study, the team relied on the older cohort (who were aged 20-21 now) and analyzed the data from the LSAC wave 9C1 and wave 8. The LSAC wave 9C1 collected data during the pandemic between October 2020 and December 2020, while the LSAC wave 8 data was from pre-COVID-19 times, i.e., from 2018. The participants were asked if they had avoided medical care when they thought it was needed in the last 12 months.

Over 58% of the participants were female and the majority (95%) of the participants were born in Australia. Over 23% of the youths reported having an illness or disability, while 43% had pre-existing health conditions and 40% reported high psychological stress.

The following item was directly asked to K-cohort of both waves (Wave 9C1 and Wave 8) to assess healthcare access:

In the last 12 months, has there been any time when you thought you should get medical care, but you didn't?”.

Results

During the pandemic, about 40% of respondents did not seek medical attention when needed which was similar to nearly 42% during pre-pandemic times in 2018. While illness, disability, and psychological distress were the major factors that led to barriers to healthcare access during the pandemic, many respondents did not seek medical attention due to fear of contracting COVID-19 infection while visiting hospitals.

In comparison, the factors affecting healthcare access during pre-pandemic times were state of residence, country of birth, pre-existing conditions, and psychological distress. The most prevalent reason reported for the reluctance to access healthcare was the thought that the problem would resolve on its own.

Moreover, the difficulties experienced due to COVID-19-related restrictions or lockdown significantly contributed to poor health care access. Youth with illness or disabilities who require constant care were more likely to avoid health care access than others during the pandemic. Young females perceived greater barriers to accessing healthcare compared to young males.

Conclusions

Overall, the study results show that although healthcare access patterns among youth were similar before and during the pandemic, COVID-19 has added some new barriers to seeking medical care when needed.

Chronic illnesses, disabilities, and high/very high psychological stress in youth increased their perceived barriers to accessing healthcare services compared to youth without these conditions. This could be attributed to the fact that their pre-existing conditions would increase the risk of contracting the virus and they may also take more time to recuperate from COVID-19 compared to youth without pre-existing co-morbidities.

Youth living with their families perceived they were more able to access health care both before and during the pandemic as cohesive families are better at identifying health care needs and can assist or encourage youth to seek health care services when needed. In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the proportion of perceived barriers to health care access for youth and has discouraged them from seeking medical care when needed.

*Important notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:
  • Md Irteja Islam, Joseph Freeman, Verity Chadwick, Alexandra Martiniuk. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on healthcare access for Australian adolescents and young adults. medRxiv. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.01.21267121 https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.01.21267121v1

Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Research News | Disease/Infection News

Tags: Adolescents, Children, Chronic, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, Disability, Health Care, Healthcare, Pandemic, Stress, Virus

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Written by

Susha Cheriyedath

Susha has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Chemistry and Master of Science (M.Sc) degree in Biochemistry from the University of Calicut, India. She always had a keen interest in medical and health science. As part of her masters degree, she specialized in Biochemistry, with an emphasis on Microbiology, Physiology, Biotechnology, and Nutrition. In her spare time, she loves to cook up a storm in the kitchen with her super-messy baking experiments.

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