Increasing number priced out of health care
Irish people are going to the doctor less because they can no longer afford it, a survey suggested today.
A quarter of the population who have neither health insurance nor a medical card are among the worst affected by the belt-tightening during the recession.
The poll of 1,001 adults by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer shows a 4pc drop in the number of people attending their GP for a check up between 2008 and this year.
There was an even bigger decrease, of 7pc, in people seeking medical attention when they are feeling unwell.
And 3% fewer went into hospital for treatment or an operation over the same two-year period, the study shows.
In all cases, skilled manual workers - or tradesmen, like plumbers, builders and carpenters - are less likely to go to their doctors, it found.
These workers make up almost a quarter of the population.
More than a third (34pc) of them do not have a medical card or health insurance.
Professor Kevin Balanda, associate director of the Institute of Public Health, blamed the fall off in medical care on the recession and resulting austerity measures.
"Some of the decrease is down to groups suffering most from the recession who don't have the financial resources (to attend the doctor)," he said.
"I think there is enough emerging evidence from this and other studies to suggest that this is the case."
Prof Balanda warned that the gap in health between different groups was likely to increase in the coming years if Government action is not taken to avert it.
"There is a moral imperative to protect those who are most disadvantaged, but there is also an economic one as there are established links between poor health and poor economic performance," he added.
"It is vital that measures to be introduced in the coming months to deal with the recession are equitable and fair and protect those who are most vulnerable."
The poll also showed 64pc of "middle class" people have private health insurance.